Review: ‘Dolittle,’ starring Robert Downey Jr.

January 17, 2020

by Carla Hay

Robert Downey Jr.  and parrot Polynesia (voiced by Emma Thompson) in “Dolittle” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

“Dolittle”

Directed by Stephen Gaghan

Culture Representation: Set primarily in the United Kingdom, this dramatic adventure movie’s live-action characters are nearly all white; the voice actors portraying the animated animals are a racially mixed cast; and the social classes range from working-class to royalty.

Culture Clash: A reclusive doctor with the special power to talk to animals reluctantly goes on a journey to find a rare medical cure, and faces obstacles that include more than one villain.

Culture Audience: “Dolittle” will appeal primarily to fans of children-oriented entertainment who don’t mind if the visuals are much better than the storytelling.

Dab-Dab the duck (voiced by Octavia Spencer), polar bear Yoshi (voiced by John Cena), parrot Polynesia (voiced by Emma Thompson), Dr. John Dolittle (played by Robert Downey Jr.), ostrich Plimpton (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani), Tommy Stubbins (played by Harry Collett) and gorilla Chee-Chee (voiced by Rami Malek) in “Dolittle” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

It’s not really a good sign when a major-studio film headlined by an A-list movie star is released in January, the month that’s a notorious dumping ground for bad movies. Universal Pictures must have known that “Dolittle” was going to be a dud, even with star Robert Downey Jr. coming off his major hot streak in the blockbuster superhero “Avengers” and “Iron Man” movies. (“Avengers: Endgame,” Downey’s 2019 movie that was released before “Dolittle,” now holds the record as the world’s biggest box-office movie hit of all time, ending the 10-year reign at the top held by “Avatar.”) “Dolittle” isn’t a terrible film. It’s just a terribly generic film in an era when we’ve been bombarded with kids-oriented movies that have talking animals.

By making “Dolittle” an action-adventure film, “Dolittle” director Stephen Gaghan, who wrote the screenplay with Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, tried to do something different from previous “Dolittle” movies. The original 1967 “Dr. Dolittle” film, starring Rex Harrison and a cast of other Brits, was a musical adapted from Hugh Lofting’s “Dr. Dolittle” book series. The three “Dr. Dolittle” movies from 1998, 2000 and 2006 were slapstick American comedies—the first two starred Eddie Murphy as the title character, and a third film was an ill-conceived flop starring Kyla Pratt, who played Dolittle’s daughter in the first two Murphy-starring films.

Gaghan’s “Dolittle” goes back to the original United Kingdom location, during the mid-1800s era of a young Queen Victoria (played by Jessie Buckley), who has come down with a mysterious illness. During the film’s animated opening sequence, viewers see that veterinarian John Dolittle once led a happy life taking care of animals with his beloved wife Lily (played by Kasia Smutniak), who died tragically.

Fast forward seven years later, and Dr. Dolittle has become a cranky hermit who has neglected his hygiene (he’s so unkempt that a mouse has been living in his beard), as he lives with his animals on his estate that’s essentially an animal sanctuary. The filmmakers have made Dolittle a Welshman, so it might take a while for some viewers to getting used to hearing Downey speak in a Welsh accent that sounds a little too pretentious for a movie where most of his co-stars are animated talking animals. This is a kids’ movie, not Shakespeare.

Tommy Stubbins (played by Harry Collett), a boy from the small village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, is an orphaned misfit who lives with his aunt and uncle. Tommy loves animals, and is therefore uncomfortable when he’s forced to go hunting with his uncle. When Tommy accidentally shoots a squirrel while hunting, he decides to take the injured animal to the mysterious Dr. Dolittle, even though the doctor has a reputation for being a curmudgeon. Instead of being afraid of Dolittle’s menagerie of wild animals, Tommy is fascinated and finds out that he has a knack for communicating with animals too. Affected by Tommy’s presence, Dolittle cleans himself up, as he notices that Tommy sees him as a role model and possible mentor.

It isn’t long before Dolittle gets another visitor: Queen Victoria’s attendant Lady Rose (played Carmel Laniado), who arrives with orders to bring Dolittle to Buckingham Palace to give medical aid to the queen. Dolittle has a big incentive to save the queen’s life, because his property has been loaned to him by the queen, and if she dies, he will lose the property.

While at the palace, Dolittle has an awkward reunion with a former school rival: royal physician Dr. Blair Müdfly (played by Michael Sheen), who is jealous of Dolittle’s talent and acclaim. Müdfly is such an over-the-top villain that he practically twirls his moustache and gnashes his teeth. And there’s another antagonist in the story: the ambitious Lord Thomas Badgley (played by Jim Broadbent), who will inherit the throne if Queen Victoria dies. (At this point in her life, Victoria is not married and has no children.)

Dolittle determines that the best cure for the queen’s life-threatening illness is fruit from the Eden Tree on Eden Tree Island, because this fruit is said to have magical powers. (How biblical.) Tommy has essentially decided that he doesn’t really want to go home, so he tags along on Dolittle’s voyage, with Dolittle’s numerous animals in tow as they set sail on a ship called the Water Lily.

Now, about the animals. The problem with “Dolittle” is that there are too many of them in this film. If you’re someone with a short attention span, good luck trying to keep track of all the talking animals. The “Madagascar” movies (another animated series with a variety of wild animals that talk) worked so well because the animals were in a relatively small group and their personalities were so distinct. In “Dolittle,” the personalities of most of the animals tend to blend together in a crowded mush, with the notable exception of the parrot Polynesia (voiced by Emma Thompson), a dutifully efficient assistant/caretaker with a whip-smart attitude. Polynesia holds a special place in Dolittle’s heart because the parrot used to be owned by Dolittle’s late wife Lily.

The other animals in this mixed-bag menagerie are Chee-Chee (voiced by Rami Malek), an insecure gorilla; Dab-Dab (voiced by Octavia Spencer), a maternal, scatterbrained American Pekin duck; Plimpton, a nervous osctrich (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani); Yoshi (voiced by John Cena), a polar bear who hates the cold, loves adventure, and often bickers with Plimpton; Betsy (voiced by Selena Gomez), a kind giraffe; Kevin (voiced by Crag Robinson), the injured squirrel that was accidentally shot by Tommy and who has a cheeky sense of humor; Tutu (voiced by Marion Cotillard), a fearless fox with leadership qualities; and Mini (voiced by Nick A. Fisher), a baby sugar glider that’s constantly curious.

Meanwhile, other talking animals include brainy dog Jip (voiced by Tom Holland), a long-haired Lurcher tasked with guarding the queen; Humphrey (voiced by Tim Treloar), a whale that helps navigate the Water Lily; James (voiced by Jason Mantzoukas), a nervous dragonfly; Barry (voiced by Ralph Fiennes), a Bengal tiger with mommy issues and a grudge against Dolittle; Don Carpenterino (voiced by David Sheinkopf), the leader of an ant colony; Army Ant (voiced by Matthew Wolfe), Don’s sidekick; and Dragon (voiced by Frances de la Tour), guardian of the Eden Tree.

As for other human characters, there’s also Pirate King Rassouli (played by Antonio Banderas), who lives on Monteverde Island, one of the stops along the way to Eden Tree Island. Banderas hams it up as yet another adversary to Dolittle and his crew. Large ensembles can work for well-written, live-action films geared to adults. But when it’s a mostly animated film geared to kids, the movie can come across as too cluttered for its own good.

“Dolittle” certainly has an impressive cast of acting talent. It’s too bad that so many of the characters are bland. Furthermore, Chee-Chee (the gorilla that’s a visual standout) is a missed opportunity, since the character was miscast for its voice. Malek sounds more like the minature “Frozen” snowman Olaf than a massive gorilla. The Chee-Chee character needed an actor with a deeper voice to better reflect the gorilla’s intimidating physical presence. Former wrestling champ Cena, who’s the voice of Yoshi the polar bear, would have been better in the role of Chee-Chee.

Although the characters in this movie are very underdeveloped, the compelling visual effects (overseen by visual effects supervisors Nicolas Aithadi and John Dykstra) are the most entertaining aspect of the film. Young children who are dazzled by visuals should enjoy “Dolittle” for the movie’s colorful ambiance, even if they won’t remember most of the movie’s animal characters weeks after seeing this film. (Don’t expect there to be a high demand for “Dolittle” toys.) More mature viewers might get easily bored with this movie, because it wallows in a lot of mediocrity that wastes this talented cast.

Simply put: “Dolittle” is not the kind of movie that people looking for high-quality entertainment will rush to see multiple times while it’s in theaters. We all know how this movie is going to end anyway.

Universal Pictures released “Dolittle” in U.S. cinemas on January 17, 2020.

 

 

 

2020 Golden Globe Awards: presenters announced

January 3, 2020

by Carla Hay

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the organization the votes for the Golden Globe Awards) and Dick Clark Productions (which co-produces the Golden Globes telecast) have announced the presenters of the 2020 Golden Globe Awards ceremony, which takes place January 5 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills California. NBC will have the U.S. telecast of the show, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern Time/5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Here are the presenters in alphabetical order:

  • Tim Allen
  • Jennifer Aniston*
  • Christian Bale*
  • Antonio Banderas*
  • Jason Bateman
  • Annette Bening*
  • Cate Blanchett*
  • Matt Bomer
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Glenn Close
  • Daniel Craig*
  • Ted Danson
  • Ana de Armas*
  • Leonardo DiCaprio*
  • Ansel Elgort
  • Chris Evans
  • Dakota Fanning
  • Will Ferrell
  • Lauren Graham
  • Tiffany Haddish
  • Kit Harington*
  • Salma Hayek
  • Scarlett Johansson*
  • Elton John*
  • Nick Jonas
  • Harvey Keitel
  • Zoe Kravitz
  • Jennifer Lopez*
  • Rami Malek*
  • Kate McKinnon
  • Helen Mirren
  • Jason Momoa
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Amy Poehler
  • Brad Pitt*
  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph
  • Margot Robbie*
  • Paul Rudd*
  • Wesley Snipes
  • Octavia Spencer
  • Bernie Taupin*
  • Charlize Theron*
  • Sofia Vergara
  • Kerry Washington
  • Naomi Watts
  • Rachel Weisz
  • Reese Witherspoon*

*2020 Golden Globe Awards nominee

Ricky Gervais is hosting the show. Tom Hanks will be receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement, while Ellen DeGeneres will be getting the Carol Burnett Award, which is given to people who have excelled in comedy. The Carol Burnett Award debuted at the Golden Globes in 2019, and Burnett was the first recipient of the prize. Dylan and Paris Brosnan (sons of Pierce Brosnan) will serve as the 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors.

Click here for a complete list of nominations for the 2020 Golden Globe Awards.

2019 Golden Globe Awards: ‘A Star Is Born,’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ will be in Drama categories, not Musical or Comedy

October 10, 2018

by Carla Hay

In a move that comes as a big surprise to awards observers, the music-oriented films “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” will not be submitted for consideration in the Musical or Comedy categories at the 2019 Golden Globe Awards, and will instead be submitted in the Drama categories, according to IndieWire. The 76th Annual Golden Globe Awards will be presented at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on January 6, 2019. Movies eligible for the awards are those released in  U.S. theaters for at least one week in 2018. The nominations will be announced on December 6, 2018.

Warner Bros Pictures’ 2018 remake of “A Star Is Born,” directed by Bradley Cooper, stars Cooper and Lady Gaga as two singers who have an ill-fated romance.  Cooper and Lady Gaga do their own singing in the movie, and were among the co-writers of the movie’s original songs. “A Star Is Born” was released on October 5, 2018.

20th Century Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” directed by Bryan Singer, is the official biopic of the British rock band Queen, and features original, previously released songs from the band in the soundtrack. The “Bohemian Rhapsody” movie has different release dates, depending on the country. In the United States, the movie’s release date is November 2, 2018, while the United Kingdom has the first release of the film on Oct. 24, 2018. Rami Malek, who plays Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” has some of his vocals dubbed over Queen’s original songs in some of the live-performance scenes, but the movie’s songs feature Mercury’s lead vocals, for the most part. Mercury died of AIDS in 1991.

Several past music-oriented dramas have been nominated for or won Golden Globes in the musical or comedy categories, even when the movie did not have the traditional musical format of characters singing lines of their dialogues. They include 2004’s “Ray” (the Ray Charles biopic starring Jamie Foxx), 2005’s “Walk the Line” (the Johnny Cash biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon) and 2010’s “Burlesque” (the burlesque-dance feature film starring Christina Aguilera and Cher).

Between “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the movie getting more awards buzz is “A Star Is Born.” Even with “A Star Is Born” competing in the Drama field at the Golden Globes, it’s still likely to get a Best Picture nomination. Cooper is one of the producers of the 2018 remake of “A Star Is Born,” and he co-wrote the movie’s screenplay. Meanwhile, Cooper and Lady Gaga are expected to get nods for, respectively, Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama and Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. “A Star Is Born” will almost certainly be a top contender for Best Original Song, with “Shallow” and/or “I’ll Never Love Again” the two most likely songs to be nominated from the movie. Cooper made his directorial debut with “A Star Is Born,” and a Best Director nomination is possible for him.

Meanwhile, the most awards buzz that “Bohemian Rhapsody” is getting is for a Best Actor nomination for Malek. Since “Bohemian Rhapsody” doesn’t have any original songs written for the movie, it’s ineligible for the Best Original Song category.

In the Golden Globes field of Musical or Comedy, Cooper and Lady Gaga were considered the most likely to win Best Actor and Best Actress, while “A Star Is Born” was considered a clear frontrunner to win Best Picture.  But now that they won’t be competing in the Musical or Comedy field, they face stiffer competition in the Drama field. In the category of Best Motion Picture – Drama, “A Star Is Born” will likely be competing against “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Cannes Film Festival award-winner “BlacKkKlansman, which is being hailed as director Spike Lee’s best film in years. “Roma,” which has been winning awards at film festivals, is a Spanish-language film that is ineligible for this Golden Globes category because Netflix is reportedly submitting the movie in the category of Best Foreign-Language Film, where “Roma” would be the clear frontrunner. Golden Globe rules prevent a movie to be nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign-Language Film.

In the race for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Cooper could be up against Malek of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Willem Dafoe of “At Eternity’s Gate.” “Vice,” which appears to be a dark comedy, could be submitted in the Musical or Comedy field, which means that Christian Bale (who stars in the movie as Dick Cheney) could be a contender for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy instead of competing against his former “American Hustle” co-star Cooper for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama. Lady Gaga’s competition in the category of Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama could be Glenn Close of “The Wife” and Nicole Kidman of “Destroyer.” Oscar-winning directors Alfonso Cuarón of “Roma” and Damien Chazelle of “First Man” are considered early frontrunners for the Best Director category. Cooper is also likely to get nominated for Best Director, but he is unlikely to win for the first movie he directed.

As for which movies could get multiple nominations in the Musical or Comedy field, early predictions are that “The Favourite” and “Mary Poppins Returns” are the frontrunners, with Olivia Colman of “The Favourite” and Emily Blunt of “Mary Poppins Returns” most likely to be among the contenders for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. The critically acclaimed hit romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” could also be nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, although it faces stiff competition from “The Favourite,” which has been winning awards at film festivals, and “Mary Poppins Returns,” which has an A-list cast and Disney’s track record of award-winning musicals.

It should be noted that although “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” will be submitted in the Drama field, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the group behind the Golden Globe Awards) can still vote to put those films in the Musical or Comedy field. We’ll find out what happens when the nominations are announced.

2018 American Music Awards: Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks, The Chainsmokers, Lenny Kravitz among presenters

October 8, 2018

AMAs logo

The following is  a press release from Dick Clark Productions and ABC:

Dick Clark Productions and ABC today announced a star-studded line-up of presenters for the “2018 American Music Awards.” Some of the biggest names from film, television and music including Kelsea Ballerini, Tyra Banks, Kane Brown, Chloe x Halle, Macaulay Culkin, Lauren Daigle, Billy Eichner, Sara Gilbert, Kathryn Hahn, Amber Heard, Vanessa Hudgens, Taran Killam & Leighton Meester, Heidi Klum, Liza Koshy, Lenny Kravitz, Normani, Rita Ora, Busy Philipps, Bebe Rexha, Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Evan Ross, Ashlee Simpson-Ross, John Stamos, Amandla Stenberg, The Chainsmokers, Constance Wu, and the cast of “Bohemian Rhapsody” including Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello & Gwilym Lee will take the stage throughout the night.

The lineup of presenters joins host Tracee Ellis Ross and previously announced performers benny blanco with Halsey and Khalid, Camila Cabello, Cardi B featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin, Mariah Carey, Ciara featuring Missy Elliott, Dua Lipa, Jennifer Lopez, Ella Mai, Panic! At The Disco, Post Malone featuring Ty Dolla $ign, Shawn Mendes with Zedd, Taylor Swift, Twenty One Pilots, and Carrie Underwood, as well as a special tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

The “2018 American Music Awards,” the world’s largest fan-voted awards show, will broadcast live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.

The American Music Awards winners are voted entirely by fans. Voting is now closed in all categories except New Artist of the Year presented by Capital One® Savor® Card and Collaboration of the Year.
Fans can vote for each award 100 times per day, per voting platform in one or both of the ways below.

  • Via web at VoteAMAs.com
  • Posting a tweet on Twitter that includes the nominee’s name or Twitter handle, the category name and #AMAs within the tweet
Voting for New Artist of the Year presented by Capital One Savor Card and Collaboration of the Year will close on Tuesday, October 9 at 5:59:59pm PT, one hour into the live broadcast.American Music Awards nominees are based on key fan interactions as reflected on Billboard.com, including streaming, album and digital song sales, radio airplay, social activity and touring. These measurements are tracked by Billboard and its data partners, including Nielsen Music and Next Big Sound, and reflect the time period of September 15, 2017 through August 9, 2018.

YouTube Music is the presenting sponsor of the “2018 American Music Awards.”

Capital One Savor Card and Subaru of America, Inc. are sponsors of the “2018 American Music Awards.” Media partner is Cumulus Media/Westwood One.
The “2018 American Music Awards” is produced by dick clark productions. Barry Adelman, Mark Bracco and Tracee Ellis Ross are Executive Producers. Larry Klein is Producer.

For the latest American Music Awards news, exclusive content and more, be sure to follow the AMAs on social and join the conversation by using the official hashtag for the show, #AMAs.

Facebook: Facebook.com/AMAs
Twitter: @AMAs
Instagram: @AMAs
Snapchat: TheAMAs
YouTube: YouTube.com/TheAMAs

Tickets are now on sale at www.axs.com.

About the American Music Awards
The American Music Awards, the world’s largest fan-voted award show, features performances from today’s hottest artists and presents fan-voted awards in the music genres of Pop/Rock, Alternative Rock, Country, Rap/Hip-Hop, Soul/R&B, Adult Contemporary, Contemporary Inspirational, Latin, EDM and Soundtrack, and the categories of Artist of the Year, New Artist of the Year presented by Capital One Savor Card, Collaboration of the Year, Tour of The Year, Favorite Social Artist presented by Xfinity and Favorite Music Video. The American Music Awards pays tribute to today’s most influential and iconic artists.  The show is produced by dick clark productions and is seen in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. For more information, visit www.theamas.comwww.dickclark.com or abc.go.com/shows/american-music-awards.

About dick clark productions
dick clark productions (dcp) is the world’s largest producer and proprietor of televised live event entertainment programming with the “Academy of Country Music Awards,” “American Music Awards,” “Billboard Music Awards,” “Golden Globe Awards,” “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” and the “Streamy Awards.” Weekly television programming includes “So You Think You Can Dance” from 19 Entertainment and dcp. dcp also owns one of the world’s most unique and extensive entertainment archive libraries with over 60 years of award-winning shows, historic programs, specials, performances and legendary programming. dcp is a division of Valence Media, a diversified media company with divisions and strategic investments in premium television, wide release film, specialty film, live events and digital media. For additional information, visit www.dickclark.com.

About YouTube Music 
YouTube Music is a completely reimagined streaming music service with music videos, official albums, singles, remixes, live performances, covers and hard-to-find music you can only get on YouTube. It’s ALL here! YouTube Music serves music based on your tastes and what’s moving the community around you. Discover something new or keep up with what’s trending. Basic functions such as playing music and watching videos are totally free, but you can upgrade to YouTube Music Premium to explore the world of music ad-free, offline, and with the screen locked. Available on mobile and desktop.  For additional information, visit  www.youtube.com/musicpremium.