When you hear the name Doctor Dolittle, the new Robert Downey Jr. film, DOLITTLE, might not be the first thing that comes to mind. Author Hugh Lofting’s Victorian-era protagonist probably doesn’t ring a bell either. Up until now, the modern definition of the character has been Eddie Murphy’s veterinarian in DOCTOR DOLITTLE, a film that is very different from what DOLITTLE is offering audiences in theatres this weekend.
Director Stephen Gaghan’s brand-new interpretation of the literary legend, who possesses a gift for talking to animals, brings the character back to his historical roots. So, rather than adapting Lofting’s stories into a contemporary setting, Gaghan will set off Dr. John Dolittle (Downey) on a high-adventure voyage to save Queen Victoria herself.
Another big difference between DOLITTLE and its contemporary counterpart is that it’s not a film played just for laughs. Eddie Murphy’s version of John was more of a straight-laced person that had the animals creating the humor around him, enforcing a sort of edgy comedic atmosphere that made for a successful departure from what the character had traditionally been associated with.
But in DOLITTLE, there’s a sense of heart that grounds John’s relationship with animals in a sort of dramatic melancholy that looks to evolve into a more well-adjusted outlook on life as his adventure progresses. Traveling on a huge sailing ship with animals voiced by John Cena, Selena Gomez, Tom Holland and Octavia Spencer kind of does that to a person.
Perhaps the greatest change that separates Stephen Gaghan’s DOLITTLE and the DOCTOR DOLITTLE franchise folks may be more familiar with is that Dr. John Dolittle embraces his eccentricities, in a role that only Robert Downey Jr. could play. As the previous variant spent a good portion of his first film denying his ability to talk to the animals, in DOLITTLE, Downey's character isn’t afraid to converse openly with creatures of land, air and sea.
While there are certainly a lot of differences between DOLITTLE and its predecessors, what hasn’t changed is that audiences are about to see a lot of magic in the bond between humans and animals. And in a season that’s known for surprises, there could be some tricks up this good doctor’s sleeves that promise an entertaining voyage into the unknown.
DOLITTLE is playing now at an AMC near you!