Movies

Movie review: ‘Doolittle’

Robert Downey Jr. mumbles his way through a lackluster family movie remake

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 1/18/20

I was never a big fan of Rex Harrison’s British musical version, and Eddie Murphy’s contemporary American take on “Dr. Doolittle” was funny and cute in its own way, but at least both stars maintained a certain presence on screen.

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Movies

Movie review: ‘Doolittle’

Robert Downey Jr. mumbles his way through a lackluster family movie remake

Posted

I was never a big fan of Rex Harrison’s British musical version, and Eddie Murphy’s contemporary American take on “Dr. Doolittle” was funny and cute in its own way, but at least both stars maintained a certain presence on screen.

The latest incarnation of the quirky doctor who can talk to animals wanders drunkenly around trying to find its center before finally giving in to the computer generated animal co-stars because, it is they who at least appear more alive than the film’s star.

Robert Downey Jr. portrays the doctor, who we first see in an opening sequence that lends a certain downbeat air to a film that one supposes was intended to be uplifting and appealing to kids. Or at least that’s what we assume studio suits began shouting about when this movie was first screened to them, and which is probably why its release date kept being pushed back to the kiss-of-death black hole of January.

It seems that the good doctor’s beautiful love of his life has died and this has left him overcome with grief. His once thriving animal sanctuary, designated by the Queen of England, has been closed and Doolittle now is little more than an eccentric recluse. All of this changes when it is learned the young Queen Victoria (played by Irish singer and actor Jessie Buckley) has become deathly ill and no one knows how she can be cured. Not even the royal doctor, Blair Müdfly (Michael Sheen), and Lord Thomas Badgley (Jim Broadbent) have the answers, although with all their side-glances and hand-wringing one can imagine something is up with them.

But then, the queen summons Doolittle to find something that might help, which her confidant, Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado), supports. Doolittle is given more encouragement after it is revealed that if the queen dies, the sanctuary she decreed might not hold any longer and Doolittle and his animal pals might be evicted.

So, Doolittle, Lady Rose and an entourage of various creatures embarks on a journey to find the one thing that might save the queen.

Sounds fun, right? Well, the fact that Downey mumbles most of his dialogue and acts drunk or stoned most of the time doesn’t help. Nor does it help when the CGI animals — voiced by the likes of Emma Thompson, John Cena, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Selena Gomez and more — often drop into thoroughly American slang in their dialogue, despite this film being set in the early 19th century. Nor does it help when the script and action directed by Stephen Gaghan is so disjointed and illogical that the audience is wondering what is going on.

“Doolittle” literally drops the ball and has no way to fetch it.

Tempo grade: D

“Doolittle” is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

Bad Boys for Life

MPAA rating: R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, sexual references and brief drug use.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith roll out one more attempt to resurrect the days when they were a bankable comedy-action team. In this movie, old-school cops Mike Lowery (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) team up to take down the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. Newly created elite team AMMO of the Miami police department along with Mike and Marcus go up against the ruthless Armando Armas. The “boys” acknowledge their age in this, but the same raucous humor and violent action remains.

Film directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah co-stars Vanessa Hudgens, Joe Pantoliano, Kate Del Castillo and Alexander Ludwig.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Fantastic Fungi

MPAA rating: Not rated.

Taos Community Auditorium

Imagine an organism that feeds you, heals you, reveals secrets of the universe and could help save the planet. Narrated by Brie Larson, “Fantastic Fungi” is a revelatory time-lapse journey, from 2019 Maui Film Festival Visionary Award honoree and director Louis Schwartzberg, about the magical, mysterious and medicinal world of fungi and their power to heal, sustain and contribute to the regeneration of life on Earth that began 3.5 billion years ago.

Better yet, you'll see it through the eyes of mycologists, like renowned Paul Stamets talking about the unlimited potential of fungi in the fields of food, medicine, expanding consciousness, bioremediation, neurogenesis and treating end-of-life anxiety. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Sunday’s matinee screening will be followed by a free panel discussion with Mudd N Flood’s Chris Pieper, Kelly White from Tree New Mexico, and local mycologist Chad Belvill who will discuss the ecological role of fungi in regenerative agriculture, landscape hydration and forest ecology.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 19), and 7 p.m. (Jan. 20-22) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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