Seeing Dolittle: A Horror Story
Updated: Mar 29
A harmless made-for-kids movie starring Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man!) as the eccentric doctor with the uncanny ability to communicate with animals by simply speaking their language.
There I was in the theatre, in the middle of a nowhere-near-full screening room, on the film's opening weekend (always a good sign), expecting some good old-fashioned CG animal fun for the whole family to enjoy.
A mother in the row in front of me brings pizzas for her kids as the trailers play, none of which look particularly inviting: something about rock n' roll Trolls, Disney this, Disney that, Christopher Nolan's mysterious new thing about something I'll understand later or maybe not.
Looks like everyone's ready to go, ready to enjoy a wholesome adventure like they used to make back when movies didn't use close-ups and had just talking.
LET'S. DO THIS.
We're two-thirds into what has to be the shortest adventure flick since 2002's The Time Machine, a film that ended before I could even get halfway through my popcorn.
By this point, Dr. Dolittle (big spoilers ahead lol who am I kidding?) has traveled by boat to some hidden cave after tying said boat to whales, who verbally agreed to all of this because they weren't too busy eating fish, baby dolphins and having big giant sex underwater, apparently. This was following a scene in which Dolittle, a parrot and a gorilla battle an emotionally disturbed tiger (Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes) in a cell, in front of a hare who was also jailed and wearing an eyepatch.
And can talk, obviously.
Usually, in a family movie like this, the main protagonist (the daddy figure) would find his long-lost ladyfriend (mommy) and together they would travel to some other location where they would uncover some magical macguffin and battle the bad guy on top of a cliff or a lighthouse or... something high-up, you get it.
Disney's Dolittle went another way.
WAAAAY another way.
If you haven't seen Dolittle and, looking at the box-office results, I know you haven't, you might think I've photoshopped the above "Top Stories" for comedic effect but I'm afraid I am just not that funny or clever.
Indeed, Dolittle doesn't so much conclude its story, which involved finding a mythical magic fruit to cure the poisoned Queen of England, as it does culminate in the most baffling sequence since Bruce Willis drowned in a parking lot puddle at the end of the movie Glass, which I didn't just ruin for you by mistake: you are very welcome.
Many adventures end with a hero encountering a dragon, recent examples include Bilbo Baggins in the second Hobbit movie or Alice in Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland, but this is an age-old adventure story third-act thing. It's usually a knight (or Shrek) fighting a dragon but some adventures (like Shrek) go a slightly different way with it for the sake of variety or parody by having the hero either pull a metaphorical, or sometimes literal, thorn out of the dragon's paw thereby making him an ally or non-threat. Or maybe the hero uses the good dragon to fight the bad dragon, there are many more suchlike variations.
Few adventures, however, end with the hero helping the dragon to lie on its side so he can insert a leek into its anus.
I knew there would be a dragon, I knew the film would probably be quite silly, possibly quite bad but this...
I was not ready for this.
Nothing I write from here on out can ever quite capture the folly that is this moment and the feeling of being there, surrounded by actual people with siblings and houses and lives, watching this. To give you an idea, I went through more emotions during this one scene than I did the entire year preceding it: shock, confusion, denial, nervous laughter, actual laughter, close-my-eyes-and-nearly-cry laughter, confusion again, disbelief, denial again, sheer joy, satisfaction, acceptance and, yes, a certain amount of arousal.
When the dragon threw up on Dolittle, my thought process was: oh, the dragon must be sick or pregnant so Dolittle will probably help the dragon and this will lead to the next part of the film where Dolittle finds the magic fruit, yada yada yada.
I was half right.
The moment I knew something was amiss was when Robert Downey Jr., in the thickest, worst Scottish accent you'll ever hear, said the word "colon" (pronounced co-lonn).
What follows is very loud and very wet.
Dolittle and his animal friends lie the dragon on its side, because it's constipated, you see, and this'll just make the upcoming dry enema easier. Dolittle asks his sassy metal-legged duck called Dab-Dab for some kind of medical instrument, like a speculum but probably not that, though I wouldn't put it past this movie. A recurring joke throughout Dolittle sees Dab-Dab misinterpret Dolittle's requests for scalpels and such, with Dab-Dab instead presenting celery or other vegetables so, of course, it's a leek that Dolittle is given to help with the dragon and, for once, the doctor's actually ok with that.
It almost feels redundant to say this, at this point, but Dr. Dolittle promptly shoves the leek up the dragon's ass.
When that happened, by the way, the screening room went audibly silent.
For the rest of this scene, imagine, if you will, like 10 animals commenting and reacting obnoxiously throughout. This scene, I should point out, is LONG. Or, at least, it feels long as Dolittle not only extracts countless things out of the dragon's butthole including knights' helmets and human bones (kids' movie, remember), but also one long and loud fart.
The fart in question is so powerful that Robert Downey Jr.'s cheeks flap in the fart's wind as I suddenly flash back to the times he almost won an Oscar and wonder why Disney did this to him. Was this payback for bowing out of the Marvel films? I wonder...
From Iron Man to Leek Man, in under a year.
Don't f*ck with Disney, folks.
Anyway, long story short, more stuff comes out of the dragon's butt, including a very large and notably not covered in feces bagpipe, and the dragon changes color from orange to blue as a way to confirm to the audience that he does indeed feel better and Dolittle was successful in... whatever just happened. Please note that Dolittle is still covered in vomit post-colon cleanse but after all that, it kinda just looks like poo and, frankly, I can neither confirm nor deny that there isn't a bit of poo in that vomit.
And because the film is so short, once the dragon shows Dolittle the way to the secret cave, it's basically over. The magic fruit saves the Queen, a stick insect sends a man to prison for life (or a swift beheading) and that's the end of the movie. Dolittle doesn't find his long-lost girlfriend, there isn't another big climax or fight with the bad guy: the climax IS the dragon fart and shit scene.
Dolittle is not a good movie, I'm sorry to say, though I can't imagine this is a surprise to anyone. But what it is, is a great bad movie. Its ineptitude and genuinely amazing third act will be felt for years to come and I just can't not recommend it. Besides, who knows? You might unironically enjoy it! Some people certainly did, like that person giving Entertainment Weekly a good talking to for "spoiling the movie":
There's so much there. Too much, in fact, so I'll just leave it to you to appreciate the above hot take stew.
The film's closing credits, which show CGI framed portraits (on a blue CGI wall) of Robert Downey Jr. with various animals, roll on and on as the names of countless talented, and likely now very tired, animators scroll by. The one person in charge of making the sassy duck hand out a leek to an Oscar-nominated actor so he can shove it inside a prosthetic dragon butthole should've had their name underlined and in some kind of special, glittery font but I saw no such thing, tragically.
As I walked away from what once was my Dolittle seat, I could see half-opened pizza boxes all around me, piles of popcorn sprayed all over the theatre floor, mostly empty soda bottles and no-one in a particular hurry to fix all this because this was Dolittle and one does not clear up a war zone without taking a few pictures first.
Like the brave soldiers in the movie 1917, that I did not see, I walked on along this kerneled beach with memories that would haunt me for the rest of my life and the knowledge that sometimes dragons can't fart or take a shit because they eat people.
Thank you Disney.