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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Stephen Gaghan
Cast:
Robert Downey, Jr., Michael Sheen, Antonio Banderas
Writing Credits:
Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor, Doug Mand

Synopsis:
A physician who can talk to animals embarks on an adventure to find a legendary island with a young apprentice and a crew of strange pets.

MPAA:
Rated PG.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English Dolby Atmos
English DVS
Spanish Dolby 7.1
French Dolby 7.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 4/7/2020

Bonus:
• “Talk to the Animals” Featurette
• “RDJ and Harry” Featurette
• “Becoming the Good Doctor” Featurette
• “Pirate King” Featurette
• “The Wicked Dr. Müdfly” Featurette
• “A Most Unusual House” Featurette
• Previews
• DVD Copy


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RELATED REVIEWS


Dolittle [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 3, 2020)

As I’ve discussed over the years, January used to be a “dumping ground” for movies the studios thought would bomb. This changed over time, though, as a few high-grossing January releases demonstrated audiences would see films that appealed to them whenever they hit the screens.

Nonetheless, the “January graveyard” concept continues to hold true much of the time, and 2020’s Dolittle reinforces it. With a massive $175 million budget and a slew of stars involved, this looked like a tentpole movie, not something to get thrown into the market mid-January.

Despite a bevy of bad reviews and that poor release date, Dolittle managed to find a decent audience, as it took in $245 million worldwide. Due to that huge budget, it still lost buckets of money, but at least it avoided “utter debacle” status like 2019’s Cats.

Based on a series of children’s books that started in 1920, Dolittle introduces us to Doctor John Dolittle (Robert Downey, Jr.), a Victorian-era Welsh veterinarian who can speak to animals. Alas, when his wife Lily (Kasia Smutniak) dies, he turns recluse and avoids humans entirely, content to reside solely with his creature friends.

This begins to change when Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) becomes ill. The only cure for her malady resides on a magical island – and due to his ability to communicate with critters, Dolittle stands as the only man who can retrieve it.

As noted, Dolittle earned enough money to avoid “bomb” status. Sure, it never remotely approached profitability, but it could’ve been a true disaster.

Which puts it in the company of 1967’s Doctor Dolittle, another expensive film that underperformed at the box office. The 1967 version didn’t truly flop, but it lost money.

When reinvented via 1998’s Dr. Dolittle, the property finally produced a hit. The Eddie Murphy version brought the story into modern day and opted for a more comedic bent, one that audiences appreciated, and it produced a few sequels.

That seems unlikely to happen with the 2020 Dolittle, though I could potentially see a direct-to-video continuation with none of this flick’s stars and a radically lower budget. Dolittle earned just enough for Universal to potentially spin it off to small screen releases.

If that happens, I expect much weaker production values and little star power, but probably not a steep drop in film quality. While not a poor film, Dolittle doesn’t live up to the promise that comes with its cast.

Not that we see most of the famous actors onscreen. In terms of well-known humans, only Downey, Michael Sheen and Antonion Banderas show their faces.

However, Dolittle boasts an excellent cast as the voices of the many animals we find. We get performers like John Cena, Ralph Fiennes, Octavia Spencer, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Kumail Nanjiani, Craig Robinson, Tom Holland and plenty of other familiar names here.

All of them do fine, but few rise above the safe kiddie-friendly tone of the movie. That sounds snarky, like I expect Dolittle to provide something edgy, which I don’t.

However, I think the movie wants to come across as wittier and more dynamic than it is. Even with all those well-known performers, the movie consistently takes the path of least resistance, so expect the animal characters to follow predictable lines without much to challenge the audience.

This might not become a problem if Dolittle found some inspiration elsewhere, but instead, it simply regurgitates adventure film clichés without its own POV. Sure, the inclusion of the talking animals adds a twist, but not enough of one to allow the material to rise above its genre confines.

As such, Dolittle ambles about as a movie in search of a coherent narrative. While it pursues one simple goal – Dolittle’s acquisition of the substance to cure the queen – it meanders on its way there and comes across as random and oddly episodic.

Much of Dolittle gives off the aroma of “film by committee”, as it seems like a project that required 14 producer approvals before it could shoot a scene. Everything here seems sanitized for the broadest consumption, and that stifles potential creativity.

Despite these issues, Dolittle manages rudimentary entertainment value, and how well it works seems likely to reflect the age of the viewer. The younger, the better, as littler ones will likely feel enchanted by the action shenanigans and the funny talking animals.

Even this 53-year-old managed to discover occasional minor charms, mainly because said 53-year-old loves animals. This simple fun of the interactions among so many species can bring a smile to the face of someone with an affection for furry critters.

Still, even the cutest beasts can only enchant for so long. At no point does Dolittle turn into a cinematic embarrassment, but it squanders a lot of talent to become a fairly lackluster adventure.

Footnote: a tag scene appears midway into the end credits.


The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus D+

Dolittle appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie offered a fine transfer.

Overall definition seemed positive. Virtually no softness materialized, sof the movie appeared accurate and concise.

I noticed no signs of jaggies or edge enhancement, and shimmering was absent. The film lacked print flaws and seemed clean.

Many period pieces opt for subdued palettes, and that was true here. The colors tended toward golden tones, with heavy blues for nighttime scenes. These appeared fine within the film’s stylistic choices.

Blacks seemed dark and tight, and shadows demonstrated good clarity. This added up to a satisfying presentation.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the film’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack opened up the film in a satisfying manner. Though the mix didn’t give us wall-to-wall theatrics, it managed to use the spectrum well.

As expected, the film’s occasional action sequences boasted nice breadth and activity, and the scenes at sea created a fine sense of involvement. While the soundscape didn’t stun us on a constant basis, it provided more than enough to succeed.

Audio quality seemed consistently solid. Speech appeared natural and distinctive; no edginess or other issues marred the dialogue.

Music sounded warm and full, while effects showed good clarity and accuracy. When necessary, bass response came across as deep and tight. All of this lifted the track to “B+” status.

The disc includes six featurettes, and these launch with Talk to the Animals. It runs five minutes, five seconds and brings comments from actor Robert Downey, Jr. and producer Susan Downey.

“Talk” offers an overview of cast and animal characters. It proves highly puffy, though I like the occasional glimpses of the recording studio.

RDJ and Harry: Mentor and Mentee lasts three minutes, 30 seconds and features Robert Downey, Jr. and actors Michael Sheen and Harry Collett.

We get a look at the relationship between Downey and Collett in this fluffy reel. At least it offers some nice shots from the set.

With Becoming the Good Doctor, we get a two-minute, 54-second piece that offers notes from Robert Downey, Jr., Susan Downey, director of photography Guillermo Navarro and costume designer Jenny Beavan. “Doctor” looks at Downey’s casting and performance in this happy-talk filled reel.

Pirate King spans two minutes, 59 seconds with remarks from Robert Downey, Jr., Susan Downey, Beavan, hair and makeup designer Daniel Phillips, supervising art director Matt Gray, and actor Antonio Banderas. We cover Banderas’s role and the depiction of pirates in this forgettable reel.

Next comes The Wicked Dr. Müdfly, a two-minute segment that boasts material from Sheen, Susan Downey, and producer Jeff Kirschenbaum. This show views Sheen’s part/performance and turns into another superficial piece.

Finally, A Most Unusual House fills three minutes, 58 seconds with statements from Collett, Robert Downey, Jr., Gray, SFX supervisor Dominic Tuohy, set decorator Lee Sandales, and property master David Chessman.

“House” looks at the Dolittle home set. It’s not detailed, but it proves more informational than its siblings.

The disc opens with an ad for Trolls World Tour. No trailer for Dolittle appears here.

An expensive box office disappointment, I can’t call Dolittle a bad movie, but I can’t claim it does much right, either. Erratic and unfocused, the film manages splashes of entertainment but it never connects as a whole. The Blu-ray boasts strong picture and audio but bonus materials remain insubstantial. Though not a disaster, Dolittle fails to become a winning adventure.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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