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Review: 'Dolittle' does little to justify its existence

Robert Downey Jr. hits something close to bottom in this abysmal kids flick starring the doctor who can talk to animals

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Robert Downey Jr. gives whatever the opposite of his all is in "Dolittle," a soulless, uninspired talking animals kids movie that only exists because somebody, somewhere decided resurrecting Dolittle was a swell idea. 

Downey Jr., who before he became Tony Stark was one of our most fearless, untethered actors, fumbles through the film and expends most of his energy trying to decide on an accent for his character. It's the kind of self-consciously weird yet oddly lazy performance that only current day Johnny Depp could love.

A gorilla voiced by Rami Malek and Robert Downey Jr. in "Dolittle."

Downey lands on a vaguely Irish, maybe Scottish, whispered bark that was seemingly dubbed in during post-production, which gives the impression he was still figuring it out while filming. It's how most of "Dolittle" unfolds. 

We learn up front about Dolittle's way with animals — he can talk to them, just as Eddie Murphy could and Rex Harrison before him — and his lost love, Lily (Kasia Smutniak), who died during an expedition.

Following Lily's death, Dolittle closed up his mansion and walled himself off from people, but in head-spinningly quick fashion he's off on a mission to save the Queen of England, accompanied by a young boy (Harry Collett) who fancies himself Dolittle's apprentice, a rep for the Queen (Carmel Laniado) and a crew of wise-cracking animals. 

Are we having fun yet? The plot mechanics of "Dolittle" serve only to move the movie along; nothing makes sense, little is at stake, no one seems to care. The CGI effects are only moderately above "Air Buddies" level. And when all else fails, we get big, long flatulence jokes. 

"Dolittle" is written and directed by "Syriana" writer-director Stephen Gaghan, which doesn't add up at all. Gaghan can do better, Tony Stark can do better, and you can do better as well.  

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Dolittle'

GRADE: D

Rated PG: for some action, rude humor and brief language

Running time: 101 minutes