Robert Downey Jr.’s Dolittle opens this weekend. Although “open” may be too strong a word in this case. How about will play to mostly empty theaters this weekend? That’s a bit more apt.
I’m trying not to pile on here but they’re making it tough. Who thought this was a good idea? This is why Robert Downey Jr. won’t be Iron Man anymore? To do stuff like this? What’s next for him – a sequel to 1988’s Johnny Be Good so he can be Anthony Michael Hall’s sidekick again?
But the story here isn’t how Dolittle stinks. Lots of movies stink, even some that make lots of money.
The story here is all the inexplicable choices that have been made in this mess. If this was an inexpensive little kids movie with someone like, oh, say Tim Allen (remember The Shaggy Dog?), then this is no big deal. You don’t really see anyone giving Spies In Disguise (or Will Smith) a hard time over that under-performing turd. Although it’s possible someone like me may have called out Will Smith in general… but you get the point.
The reported budget (as in, the budget the studio will admit to spending) for Dolittle is 175 million. I’ll give you a moment to smush your eyeballs back into their sockets… Better? Yeah, and that’s before the marketing and distribution spend. Blumhouse could make 30 movies with that money, and all of them would be more profitable than Dolittle.
And this seemed like a good way to spend 175 million? Because the world was demanding a reboot of this property? Because some producer or exec pitched it as “Iron Man with talking animals, with built-in IP (intellectual property)” and everyone at Universal screamed “Yes! We’re in!”? Because this is the kind of thing that gets the fanboys geeked out over at Comic-Con? Sure, maybe they’ll dress up as a tiger or goose instead of Jon Snow or Spock this year. Just as cool.
There’s no exoneration here for Iron Man either. Unless this was a cry for help like Less Than Zero (which also is where the RT score for this is headed). Was he trying to expand his audience? RDJ not getting enough fan mail from kids and parents? Yeah, the family crowd really shunned his Marvel movies. If half of that over-sized budget went to RDJ – that might make sense. But without the Iron suit, he doesn’t make that kind of cash. So again, why?
To make matters worse, the promo people over at Universal can’t even figure out how to sell this movie. I gave them all the props in the world for what they did with 1917, but on this one they just gave up. Look at this TV promo:
What IS this movie? Is there even any attempt at a message? A story? A reason to go see it? Do they think that someone being able to talk to animals is such an amazing hook they don’t need to sell anything else? I get that the movie isn’t very funny, so they can’t lean too hard on comedy – but talking animals alone is NOTHING. It’s been done 1000 times. Is there ANY kind of plot or adventure? Give us SOMETHING. With all the research and testing they do – THIS was the winner? Do they have any sense of what actually motivates people to buy tickets these days?
It ain’t that.
But this is Hollywood. It happens. No one will be held accountable. Production will blame marketing and marketing will blame production. Even though they both screwed this up.
The bad choices go beyond that though.
And this is what happens.