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DR. DOLITTLE: A cast to die for -- with the emphasis on DIE


* 1/2 (out of four)

I went to “Dolittle” as an act of protest -- because the Motion Picture Academy could not see fit to tap Robert Downey Jr. as Best Actor in “Endgame.”

Frankly, rather than sitting through this latest Downey vehicle, I would’ve been better off watching “Endgame” again -- or any of the actor’s other fine films, all of which make you wonder what possessed him to sign up for such a witless mess.

And he ain’t the only one slumming it in this dreary iteration of the famed story about a British doctor who can “talk to the animals.”

Just get a load of this supporting cast:

Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Antonio Banderas, Ralph Fiennes, Rami Malek, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard, Carmen Ejogo and Emma Thompson.

Phew! That’s some serious thespian muscle -- covering at least five Oscar-winners, by my count. But it’s all for nought … because the script is so entirely lame: unimaginative, unclever, uninteresting, unfunny and so very un-worth your time and money.

I’m sorry folks -- I really did want to like this movie; but, except for some nice visuals (especially the critters) and solid narration by Emma the Great, I just could not find anything to latch on to. Even Downey struggles, apparently unable to decide if his accent is English, Irish or Scottish -- and vamping like someone who’s well aware of the weaknesses in nearly every line and scene.

The story has Dolittle dashing off for the imaginary Island of Eden, because it’s the only place on earth he can find a cure for the poison that is killing England’s beloved Queen Victoria.

It’s especially tough for the famed veterinarian because his wife long ago died trying to find the place herself; but fortunately, he’s got help from an intrepid young lad (very nicely played by Harry Collett), along with the expected menagerie of friendly animals: gorilla, ostrich, giraffe, polar bear and several mice -- plus an octopus and a bunch of whales.

It’s not a bad set-up, but the film doesn’t really do much with it; worse yet, “Dolittle” constantly strains for laughs, with far too much bathroom humor and not enough originality.

It’s always hard to prove in print that a movie is not funny -- so I will merely observe that I laughed only once (maybe), and also quote some insipid dialog:

“I’m a cheer-quietly-from-the-sidelines type of gorilla.”

“Every mother wants their son to grow up to eat a doctor.” (This from an angry -- and rather ungrammatical -- tiger); then later, from a duck:

“Do you understand the words coming outta my bill?”

Squirrel: “This is the widest branch I’ve ever scuttled on.”

And this winner near the end: “There’s something interesting going on now.”

If that’s the case, I must have missed it.

“Dolittle,”

directed by Steve Gaghan

Run time: 101 min.

Rated PG for crude humor, mild violence and brief language


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