Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
“Teamwork makes the dream work”
The pain of losing a loved one.
Becoming a recluse as a result of that loss.
ANIMALS of the Bible
DRAGONS AND DINOSAURS—discover how they are connected
About DRAGONS in the Bible
Ships in the Bible
Robert Downey Jr. … Dr. John Dolittle
Tom Holland … Jip (voice)—a dog
Harry Collett … Tommy Stubbins—Dolittle’s self-appointed apprentice
Ralph Ineson … Arnall Stubbins
Jessie Buckley … Queen Victoria, The Queen of England
Rami Malek … Chee-Chee (voice)—a lowland gorilla
Emma Thompson … Polynesia (voice)—a macaw
Ralph Fiennes … Barry (voice)—a Bengal tiger
Marion Cotillard … Tutu (voice)—a red fox
Kumail Nanjiani … Plimpton (voice)—an ostrich
Michael Sheen … Mudfly
Antonio Banderas … Rassouli
John Cena … Yoshi (voice)—a polar bear
Selena Gomez … Betsy (voice)—a giraffe
Octavia Spencer … Dab-Dab (voice)—a duck
Jim Broadbent … Lord Thomas Badgley
Craig Robinson … Kevin (voice)—a red squirrel
Kasia Smutniak … Lily Dolittle—Dr. Dolittle’s deceased wife
Frances de la Tour … Ginko-Who-Soars (voice)—a fire-breathing dragon
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Perfect World Pictures
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Emphasizes love (helping others), teamwork, friendship, and moral character
There once was a man who could talk to the animals and together with his wife sought to take care of animals from all over the world. Upon saving the life of England’s Queen Victoria, he was given a sanctuary to continue his work. Upon the death of his wife, he retreated from the world and has not been seen since. So begins the fairy tale of sorts of a man named Dr. Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.).
Years later finds Dolittle a recluse with only animals for company when his solitude is broken one day by first a young boy seeking his help for an injured squirrel and then a young girl, Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) who brings with her a request for his help from the now gravely ill Queen.
Upon his examination of the Queen, the Doctor embarks on a long sea journey accompanied by the boy, Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) as well as an entourage of animals including a gorilla, a polar bear, a dog named Jip (Tom Holland-voice), and his right hand bird Polly (Emma Thompson-voice) among others. However, the Queen’s illness appears to be the work of nefarious people bent on taking her throne, and they will let nothing stop them, even if that means making sure the good Doctor never returns.
Dolittle’s animals speak to him in their own language, and thanks to CGI we see and hear them speak in English rendering it more a kid’s film whose entertainment value will increase with younger viewers. That is not to say there are not some lines and scenes written specifically to likewise entertain ‘the kid in all of us’ adults, but those are far fewer and seem more an afterthought. A decent film overall, there remains a few elements parents may wish to be wary of in this PG-rated film.
Violence: Moderate but brief. A squirrel is shot, but the actual injuries are obscured. Guns and knives are aimed at people and animals, but no one is ever shown injured seriously. Soldiers fight with animals in hand-to-hand combat, whereas animals use their claws and teeth, and the strongest injury being a kick to the groin.
The warship sent to stop Dolittle fires upon their ship and destroys much of it, although no animals are seen as hurt. The fiercest battle involves a dragon that first spits and then breathes fire onto Dolittle’s crew and several soldiers, the fire barely missing its mark, but culminates in the implied eating of one soldier, although the scene cuts away and does not show this happen. A character is seen falling to their apparent death, but is later shown to be swarmed by bats. The dragon battle may be too much for younger children.
Language: Mild. The Lord’s name is taken in vain 5 times, by the ostrich who remarks, “Oh my G*d” (3x), “Oh G*d” (1) and when someone says, “By G*d history will remember me.” An orangutan declares “God help him,” although this comment appears innocent. Inappropriate language includes: “d*mn” (1), “fr*gg*n” (1), “heck” and “shut up” (1). After a whale lifts its fin out of the water another mentions how the gesture means he is ‘flipping-off’ the human.
There is no sex or nudity in the movie, although the gorilla does jut out his backside in disdain to the Doctor during a chess game. Kissing is limited to a brief embrace between the Doctor and his wife within a flashback, and when Lady Rose gives Tommy a peck on the cheek.
The Eden Tree or The Tree of Life— When Dolittle refers to “the fruit of the Eden Tree” that can heal any disease, it is a veiled reference to the actual “Tree of Life” that God planted in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). After Adam and Eve’s fall, this tree was moved to Heaven, and as many Biblical scholars believe will return when God’s kingdom is established here on Earth. This is a spiritual reward given to us as the children of God, and not one hidden here on Earth as a medicinal or physical “cure-all.”
“And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” —Revelation 21:2
Covetousness— The main villain, Blair, wishes to find the “Eden Tree” and then take credit for what Lily Dolittle discovered years ago. The Holy Scriptures, from the Old through the New Testament, has much to say about theft and deception, and Blair’s sin covers both.
“‘… you must not steal; you must not covet,” and every other commandment are summed up in this statement: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” —Romans 13:9
Helping Others or Charity— The macaw Poly acts as the reclusive Dolittle’s conscience and concludes, “… it’s only in helping others that we can truly help ourselves.” While there is more to it than that, she did touch upon something that God’s Word addresses, and we all should look for such opportunities to help others in our daily lives.
“Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” —Deuteronomy 15:11
“… not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” —Philippians 2:4
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” —Galatians 6:2
This was more than a suggestion from our Lord Jesus, it was a command.
“The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.” —Mark 12:31
Robert Downey Jr., as the reluctant hero Dolittle, plays his role with relish and is the strongest part of a film that, even with the constant chiming in from his supporting animal cast, otherwise could only be considered average. Downey’s striving for authenticity made his accent sometimes unintelligible, but did not overly impair the straight-forward and child-like storytelling.
In conclusion, Dolittle is a sweet film targeting kids and their parents, who will draw the greatest delight in sharing the experience with them. Recommended for parents and children.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.