starring Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent
screenplay by Stephen Gaghan and John Whittington, based on the novels by Hugh Lofting
directed by Stephen Gaghan
by Walter Chaw My memory of it is a little hazy now, but it's worried my mind in the decades since I first read it, "it" being a scene from Dan Simmons's Carrion Comfort where Holocaust prisoners are forced to be the chess pieces in a giant game, with the losing "pieces" summarily executed. Not ten minutes in, Steven Gaghan's Dolittle, the second reboot of the legendarily disastrous (but also Oscar-nominated) Doctor Dolittle, features a sequence where Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) and cowardly gorilla Chee Chee (voiced by Rami Malek) play a game of chess with mice as the pieces. One strikes another with a tiny sceptre. It's played for laughs, but I wasn't laughing; I have questions. One of them concerns young Tommy's accidental, near-mortal wounding of a squirrel (voiced by Craig Robinson) who suffers from PTSD in a vaguely terrifying flash-montage upon waking from surgery, and vows revenge. Another concerns how Dolittle, who's been secreted away in his overgrown manse for years and years after the unfortunate death of his also-telepathic wife (not unlike another Dan Simmons novel, The Hollow Man), somehow has a very young lion cub in his care. Where does a hermit who never leaves his house get a baby lion? Wait, I figured it out: Shut up, you joyless old fuck, this isn't for you, it's for dim children and the parents needing a break from them.