On Blu-Ray: Dolittle

Time to head to Target. Grab your hand sanitizer, grab your face mask, grab some gloves if you have them. Drive to the store. Sit in your car for a few minutes to collect your wits. “Am I going to get sick? Am I going to get someone else sick later?” It’s OK. Take a moment. We’re in unprecedented times. Steel yourself. Sweat a little. Are you good? You’re good.

This used to be a thoughtless exercise.

Double-check your list, make sure your errands are optimized by location for swifter shopping. Bread? Milk? Eggs? A pack of Oreos as something special. Don’t buy too much. You’re furloughed. Just enough for two weeks. Maybe you’ll be back to work by then. Maybe this will all blow over by then. That’s reasonable. Right?

Don’t worry too much about it. Focus on today.

Mask on. Gloves on. Leave your car. Fewer cars in the parking lot than you expected. A good sign. 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday was a solid choice. A cool spring morning. The sort of weather that would’ve put you in a good mood on your commute. Birds chirping. They don’t know it’s all fucked up. Their cheeriness only makes you feel worse, more out of sorts.

But wait: A mother and her daughter pass you, and the little girl aimlessly wanders a little too close to you. You keep pushing forward, hoping she’ll slide back next to her parent. But she’s too little. She doesn’t understand. You weave left, awkwardly avoiding her. Across the rest of the lot, you weave between cars, creating a little walking lane of your own. Safer that way.

You enter the store — thank god for whomever invested contactless automated doors — and audibly exhale. The warm breath into your mask fogs your left glasses lens. You can’t wipe it off. You’ve been outside: Don’t touch your person. A little fog will clear up. You still have one good eye. No one will notice. Nobody will judge. This isn’t going to be as bad as you expected.

Grab a cart, wipe it down. Shop. Get your items. Categorize them inside the cart, too, for faster checkout. Keep distance from other shoppers. Breathe softly. Concentrate.

The staff at this store look harried, tired, scared. They’re all working as hard as they can in these conditions. You’re a lucky one. You (probably) have a job to which you can return. Two weeks. Just two weeks. The pit in your stomach has grown, encompassing the whole of your spirit. It’s all so dark.

In the midst of all this decay comes the home-video release of Dolittle, starring Robert Downey Jr. and a host of performers — Kumail Nanjiani, Emma Watson, John Cena and Tom Holland among them — willing to ADR their voices to play his animal buddies. It’s the sort of physical release that shows up for a few weeks on the little cardboard displays along the checkout aisles of big department stores before disappearing into the aisles of the DVD section before then disappearing into the overstock $7 tubs that only teenagers have the immune system and paradoxical patience to plumb.

There’s no reason to purchase Dolittle in any form — much less as a physical totem to remind you that what limited money you had during the COVID-19 pandemic went toward indemnifying the cost of this disaster to the producer’s pocketbooks. Downey Jr. will survive it. The man was a living legend even when he had spiraled into being the butt of Simpsons jokes before he rehabbed to redefine American legends for a generation.

But the studio send me a Vudu code and in the interest of watching at least a few of 2020’s few new releases, I gave it a go … and it got to me. The ADR is truly abhorrent. Characters speak off-screen as to save budget and time. Punchlines in this ostensible comedy pack no punch. Downey Jr.’s accent is confusing and contradictory. A dragon gets an enema. You’ve heard all this before. It’s been spoken of. Is it so bad it’s good?

No, not really.


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Administrator of Midwest Film Journal. Previously a staff writer for TheFilmYap.com, Evan has been writing film criticism in the Indianapolis area for over half a decade. He is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. He also reviews Oreos.


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