Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Michael Sheen, Antonio Banderas, Voices Of Tom Holland, Emma Thompson, Selena Gomez, Kumail Nanjiani, Rami Malek, Ralph Fiennes, John Cena, Octavia Spencer
Director: Stephan Gaghan
Rating: * * * and a half
Many of you, I daresay, must have enjoyed the exploits of the titular character in previous instalments featuring Rex Harrison and Eddie Murphy. The film under review is the latest version of Hugh Lofting’s Newbery Prize-winning fantasy adventure novel, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, which is part of a long series of children’s books.
Gaghan’s reboot boasts a star-studded cast led by Robert Downey Jr. as the reclusive grieving medico turned vet who sets out on an epic perilous voyage with his beloved talking animals in search of a cure to save the ailing young Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) No, she’s not heartsick for her consort Bertie, he’s not in the picture at all).
Hoping the sad tidings will soon turn glad is pretty Rose (Carmel Laniado), a lady- in- waiting from Buckingham Palace. Entertaining similar hopes is young Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) who tags on as Dr Dolittle’s apprentice. And Dr Dolittle can do with all the help he can get considering he's up against the likes of old adversary. Dr. Blair Mudfly (Michael Sheen)and wicked courtier Lord Thomas Badgley (Jm Broadbent) not to speak of his half crazed with grief, father in law, King Rassouii (Antonio Banderas, having a ball).
Needless to say, the film departs, like most adaptations, from the source material. And while it doesn’t chart new ground, it offers frolicsome fun for the entire family. You will laugh at the tiny creature which has made its home in Dr Dolittle’s beard, the royal squid who is loath to spill the beans saying “snitches get stitches” and Polynesia, the parrot counsellor (voiced by Emma Thompson) who cuts the good doc's hair and probably wishes she were human! The merry menagerie includes Yoshi the polar bear (John Cena) and the lumbering gorilla Chee Chee (Rami Malek)who grapples debilitating insecurities with self-help pep talk. With all hands on deck, this unwieldy film rolls along, underlining the importance of communication, compassion, courage and teamwork. Enjoy me hearties!