Universal’s Dolittle, starring Robert Downey Jr. in his first big non-Marvel role in a while, was supposed to be the start of a new big franchise for the studio. Instead, on the back of some horrible critical reviews, the film seems to have crashed spectacularly at the box office, taking any hope of it becoming the next big thing along with it.
Most of the criticism coming from the movie seems to point to the editing being a jumbled mess and the tone being inconsistent. As you can probably guess, it turns out it’s all the result of studio meddling. WSJ reports that the reason for the film’s initial release delay (from April 2019 to January 2020) was all a result of additional reshoots ordered by the studio to make the film sillier and appeal to younger filmgoers. Universal was initially worried that the film was too serious and therefore wouldn’t connect with families the way they had wanted. They ordered many of the scenes which have led to many of the film’s most derided moments by critics – along with a climax that is apparently ridiculous (having not watched the movie yet myself, I will have to take them on their word for now).
Now film reshoots are nothing unusual in the movie business with producers and directors often needing to reshoot scenes to make the film flow better. When reshoots don’t work so well (as with Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad) is when they try to change the tone of the movie with them. It’s a strategy that seldom works and apparently hasn’t worked here.
While I fully understand the studio wanting the film to be more humorous in tone and appeal to wider audiences, especially given the money they spent on the film (around $175 million), changing the original vision of the director seldom works. What was supposed to be a faithful adaptation of the original stories by Hugh Lofting turned into something that was far sillier and fantastical than writer and director Stephen Gaghan had intended. Hopefully, the box office bomb that the studio now has on its hands will help them learn the lesson, though I highly doubt it.
Last Updated: January 21, 2020