'Dr Dolittle' review: Robert Downey Jr shines in this fanciful remake

The CGI brings unlikely characters to life in this delightful family film

Susan Ramsay |

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Dr John Dolittle, portrayed by Robert Downey Jr, right, with Jip, voiced by Tom Holland

Shut down your phone, unplug your computer, block your ears, put on a blindfold and do not, whatever you do, come into any contact with reviews for Dr Dolittle. They’re wrong. So very wrong.

It’s magical, delightful and ROFL funny, with something for everyone.

Robert Downey Jr has been slammed for his title role. We can’t see why. Maybe his Welsh accent isn’t perfect, but that’s okay. He makes it good enough, and it’s not the focus of the story. Emma Thompson dazzles as Polly the maccaw, who sounds, you guessed it, like Nanny McPhee. Ralph Fiennes puts up one of the funniest match fights ever as Barry, the torn tiger. 

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Michael Sheen is your perfect OTT preposterous villain, Dr Blair Mudfly. Antonio Banderas as King Rassouli toys with the audience's emotions, keeping them literally on a knife edge while he makes important decisions.

Downey Jr is on point as the reclusive genius doctor, emotionally broken after losing the love of his life. He gets called upon to save the Queen of England, who is dying from a mysterious illness. Naturally he cannot decline and he and his crazy crew embark on a wonderous adventure.

Dunkirk’s Harry Collett is in the role of Stubbins, Dolittle's self-appointed apprentice that is desperate to learn to speak to the animals. His normal-ish behaviour is a perfect foil for all of the eccentricity around him. 

The CGI in this movie sings, bringing unlikely characters to life, allowing their unique personalities to shine through, and also bringing dollops of sweetness and lashings of fun. Fans will want to pose for souvenir selfies with the promotion boards in the movie house foyer.

As we have seen the precarnations of this film, we peeked at some of the early reviews online. They were not good. And, while we really would have liked the African animals to have African accents (African pride, right?), we can say these critics are just wrong. This is the best of the Dolittles, and we’ll be seeing it again.