Dolittle review: The movie's biggest problem isn't its crazy ending
Note: Contains mild spoilers for Dolittle.
Robert Downey Jr's first post-Marvel movie Dolittle came out in US cinemas in mid-January and things haven't gone particularly well.
After getting savaged in the first reviews, it's been a box-office flop (relatively speaking) in the US and looks set to lose $100 million unless it delivers big overseas. Perhaps harshest of all, it's been compared to Cats.
A lot of talk after its release revolved around its bonkers ending, which involves a constipated dragon, a leek and some bagpipes.
It doesn't really matter how you describe it, the scene comes out of nowhere and has to be seen to be believed. But the weirdest thing is how Dolittle could actually do with a lot more of it.
Loosely based on The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (the second of Hugh Lofting's original books), Dolittle begins with Dr John Dolittle (Downey Jr) in self-imposed isolation from humanity after the death of his wife several years earlier.
He soon finds that his unique skills are needed when the Queen (a woefully underused Jessie Buckley) falls ill. Accompanied by his animal friends, Dolittle sets off on a dangerous quest to a mythical island to find a cure.
It's a set-up that primes us for a rollicking adventure with quirky animals, including the anxious gorilla Chee-Chee (Rami Malek), cynical ostrich Plimpton (Kumail Nanjiani) and Kevin (Craig Robinson), a squirrel with a vendetta.
And yet the biggest problem is Dolittle is that it treats the concept so seriously that it's dull.
There are moments of promise early on as we're introduced to Dolittle's unique world, playing chess with Chee-Chee and performing surgery with unhinged duck Dab-Dab (Octavia Spencer).
Michael Sheen's villainous Dr Blair Müdfly appears to be acting in an entirely different movie, while the aforementioned dragon scene is immediately preceded by a scene of bonding over dead relatives.
It's a bizarre mish-mash of tones and evidence of the movie's difficult production schedule which, reportedly, included reshoots to add in quirkier scenes like the climax, as well as different directors being brought on to the project.
Say what you like about Cats, but at least it committed to its weirdness.
Through it all, you have an oddly lacklustre performance from Robert Downey Jr, usually so effortlessly charismatic, complete with a shonky Welsh accent ("passable", in his own words).
The casting elsewhere doesn't entirely work either. For every inspired matching of actor to animal, such as Jason Mantzoukas as hyper dragonfly James, you have a casting that just feels like a stunt, like Tom Holland as Dolittle's faithful dog Jip.
Like the CGI itself (which, at least, isn't Cats-level dodgy), there are too many voices that don't feel matched to the animal we're seeing on screen. It's a problem that extends to the world as a whole, with the CGI animals not always blending seamlessly with the real-world elements.
It would be easy to outright dismiss Dolittle as a truly bad movie, but the truth is that it's mainly just a boring one.
If it had committed to its quirky concept of talking to animals, then perhaps we could have been looking at Downey Jr's next franchise. As it is though, there's a severe lack of family fun on offer.
[Via Digital Spy]