Robert Downey Jr., Emma Thompson, Marion Cotillard, Octavia Spencer, John Cena, Selena Gomez, Rami Malek, Kumail Nanjiani, and Tom Holland in Dolittle (2020)

Based on the initial reviews I expected this movie to be boring or reliant on juvenile humor. I didn’t find this to be true, I’d in fact say it is an adventure movie primarily.  I’ve not read any of the novels, so my experience with the series is limited to Eddie Murphy’s movies of Dr. Dolittle. I found the trailers didn’t tell much about the movie other than the Gorilla was scared, which helps elucidate a concept of the film. Dr. Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) isn’t just a medical doctor, he’s a person interested in the world around him and helping those in it. 

 The film starts with an animated backstory narrated by Poly (Emma Thompson) about the early life of Dr. Dolittle. We learn about the untimely death of his wife Lily Dolittle (Kasia Smutniak) and the self-imposed isolation of Dolittle. We then see a boy with his family called Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) hunting against his wishes. He tries to miss a duck only to injure a squirrel. Poly the parakeet sees Tommy distraught by this and leads him to Dr. Dolittle’s wildlife reservation. Tommy gets caught in a trap, meanwhile we see Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) also finds the reservation. 

Dr. Dolittle was going about his daily routine with the animals with a large unkempt beard when he sees Tommy hanging from the net outside. Poly tries to persuade him to help Tommy, but Dr. Dolittle decides to send Chee-Chee, the gorilla, (Rami Malek) to scare Tommy and Rose despite being scared of the humans himself. Rose isn’t scared and walks right past Chee-Chee. Rose tells Dr. Dolittle that the Queen Victoria of England (Jessie Buckley) is unwell and has specifically requested Dr. Dolittle to which he refuses the request. After Tommy brings in the squirrel, Dolittle reluctantly agrees to help it. The animals overhear during the surgery that if the Queen dies, that the reservation that was granted will no longer be Dr. Dolittle’s.  

This film was an enjoyable adventure that was made for the whole family in mind, though it does have some scary scenes for younger audiences. The special effects of the animals are done well enough that you feel they are present in the scenes, but they still have some human characteristics to add to the experience. There are several characters within the movie who have well-developed personalities with relatable flaws. One of the concepts that really made me laugh was Dolittle speaks to the animals in their languages. In Eddie Murphy’s version we’re told that he speaks like the animals, but we never see him talk like the animals. The whole concept is well done, and I hope there will be a sequel. I could imagine each film focusing around a few of the animals introduced in this film to create a deeper connection with the characters. Rated PG. 


Last Christmas

From the trailers of this film, I was uncertain if I’d like it. I tend not to like romantic dramas, but I do like some romantic comedies and Christmas films. I spoke to someone who saw this film before I went. This person helped alleviate my concerns that it was too dark, dramatic, or sappy. After seeing it, I’d agree with them. This movie mixes in romance, family relationships, moving on from a point of trauma, and comedy.

The movie starts off showing a choir singing in 1999 in Yugoslavia, then we move to modern day with Kate (Emilia Clarke) going to work. We learn Kate has been looking for a place to stay after accidentally killing the fish of her former roommates. She goes to work at a Christmas shop where her boss, Santa (Michelle Yeoh), asks her about her plans and why she just won’t return to live with her parents. Kate wants to avoid her mother, and her sister Marta (Lydia Leonard) ends up having to relay the messages to Kate. Kate gets distracted one day at work by a man looking up at something strangely. She goes outside to look up and she gets “pooed on” which Tom (Henry Golding) says is good luck.

Kate at first rebukes Tom asking her out, but when she agrees after bumping into him again, she sees how unusually optimistic he is. He shows her some interesting and strange sights in the city she’s lived in for years by telling her to “look up” to see what she’s been missing. Tom helps Kate to realize that she should try visiting her family again, and we see the strained family lifestyle she wanted to avoid. Her overbearing mother Petra (Emma Thompson) even tucks her into bed and won’t stop singing a lullaby to her in one scene. Tom takes her on another date where he teaches her to ice skate to practice for her audition of Frozen on Ice. Kate is unusually upbeat for herself, but she’s frustrated by the inability to contact Tom as he leaves his cellphone at home.

While this movie seems to be a romance film, Last Christmas largely is focused around Kate’s personal journey. The movie takes a character who was focused on herself and sees her develop into someone who is both comfortable with who she is and wants to help others. I would say that it’s unfortunate that some of the themes make this a more mature movie, as it has good messages throughout the story. I do like the general theme of a character transformation in a Christmas film as it does match the general theme of finding joy in the winter. I wouldn’t say this movie greatly exceeded my expectations, but I would say that it was undersold by the trailers. Rated PG-13