Downey Jr.'s Latest: 'a Calamity for the Ages'

Actor takes flak for his accent in muddled 'Dolittle'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2020 11:08 AM CST

(Newser) – Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, and Octavia Spencer are just some of the Oscar winners and nominees starring in Dolittle, the latest film about an animal doctor sprung from Hugh Lofting's imagination. Just don't expect any Academy Awards here. The film—credited to director Stephen Gagha, though it underwent extensive reshoots under director Jonathan Liebesman—has a 17% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes (with an audience score of 75%). Four blistering reviews:

  • "Dolittle is a crime scene in need of forensic analysis" because "something terrible" happened, writes Scott Tobias at NPR, noting that "even after 120 years of cinema, it's still possible to get the basics wrong." He complains of awkward interactions between the CGI animals and human actors. To boot, Downey Jr.'s performance in the title role is "utterly charmless ... a combination of desperate improvisation and a Welsh accent that sounds pushed through a mouthful of marbles and indifference."
  • Downey actually "seems determined to sabotage this movie" with an accent that "slips into Irish, Indian, and Jamaican intonations," writes Vulture's Bilge Ebiri, who was left "questioning reality." "I wasn't expecting it to be quite this bad" but it's "the kind of movie whose incompetence boggles the mind and corrupts the soul," he writes. "It is anti-cinema"—"a calamity for the ages" that "looks and feels so cheap, uninspired, and broken."

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  • Lara Zarum questions "the time-and-space-defying logic of the film's plot." But her main gripe is with the way the animals are "reduced to wisecracking helpmeets for the swashbuckling doc," per the Globe and Mail. "There's something outrageous, at this particular moment in time, about a fantasy wherein animals eagerly and unquestionably assemble to help save the lives of people," Zarum writes.
  • "Do little? They could not have done less," according to Katie Walsh. "The character development is negligible, the jokes unoriginal" and "everyone on screen seems to be in a stumbling daze, especially Downey," she writes at the Tribune News Service. She concludes the "utterly halfhearted" film is "at-best mediocre, at-worst deeply upsetting dreck."
(Read more movie review stories.)

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