Even as many of us are still recovering from "Cats," the hallowed (and subjective) tradition of bad cinema carries on. The latest offender, according to a growing number of scathing reviews, is "Dolittle," starring Robert Downey Jr. as the famed fictional doctor turned veterinarian who is able to talk to the animals he treats.
"Dolittle" was written and directed by Stephen Gaghan - the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind "Traffic" - who helmed the 2005 political thriller "Syriana." It features Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen and (the voices of) Octavia Spencer, Rami Malek, Emma Thompson and Marion Cotillard, among others.
How bad could it be?
Well, to start, the film has the esteemed honor of being this newspaper's first zero-star review of 2020. "Dolittle" also prompted Vulture critic Bilge Ebiri to conclude "movies suck now." ("It's rare that a movie makes you question the very validity of the art-form to which you've dedicated your entire ... life," he noted in a follow-up tweet.) The flick is decidedly not certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 13 percent score as of this writing.
But as Vanity Fair reminds us (in one of the film's more generous reviews), "the 'Dolittles' of film will continue to be made, as there will always be children who want to see them."
Godspeed to parents of such children as you head to the theater this weekend. May these withering lines prepare you for the one hour and 41 minutes you'll never get back.
1. "Here's hoping the cast bought themselves something nice with the money they made. Though, to be honest, the only decent thing to do with it would have been to distribute it - a kind of movie malpractice award - among this doctor's real victims."
- Kristen Page-Kirby, The Washington Post
2. "You go into this thing expecting silly insouciance and walk away from it questioning reality. It is anti-cinema ... a calamity for the ages."
- Bilge Ebiri, Vulture
3. "Aside from a few broad bouts of animal humor - yes, flatulence is involved - the whole exercise feels utterly lifeless, and a conspicuous waste of time and, given the special effects, what looks like a ridiculous amount of money."
- Brian Lowry, CNN
4. "There really is no excuse for the harm done to Downey, a world-class actor who's sucked down into this quicksand of a movie that even Iron Man couldn't salvage."
- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
5. "The voice cast of Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, John Cena, Marion Cotillard and Ralph Fiennes has been reduced to lowest-common-denominator jokes and modern colloquialisms that make them sound like Millennials at 4:20."
- G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle
6. "Iron Man is dead; the man who played Iron Man and thereby birthed the unkillable Marvel Cinematic Universe is free. Free to do whatever he wants to do, to be wherever he wants to be, to make whatever kind of movie he wants to make. The first thing Downey wanted to do, apparently, was to give a dragon an enema."
- Rob Harvilla, the Ringer
7. "At some point during its troubled gestation, the movie once known as 'The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle' was renamed 'Dolittle.' Was 'voyage' too fusty, 'doctor' too fancy? Whatever the case, it's too bad that the rest of this movie couldn't have been ditched as well, or at least dramatically shortened."
- Manohla Dargis, New York Times
8. "Even Downey Jr.'s performance fails to connect. Sporting a half-hearted Welsh accent, he's halfway between Jack Sparrow and Tony Stark, and he fails to land either."
- Karen Han, Polygon
9. "The film is so eager to please, so relentlessly quippy and quirky and tipped with antic whimsy, it often feels like visiting a zoo built into a Tilt-A-Whirl."
- Leah Greenblatt, EW
10. "The movie is shockingly unfunny, largely boring, and a waste of talent on par with ... actually, come to think of it, it may set a new record in that regard."
- Germain Lussier, i09