Robert Downey Jr’s life comes in easily identifiable chunks. First, he had it all – the most talented actor of his generation. Then he lost it all spectacularly in a blaze of drugs and jail sentences. Then he regained everything a hundred times over, becoming the world’s richest and most beloved star in a string of films that made heavy use of his personality. And now comes the next stage, in which he does a bizarre Welsh accent at a polar bear in a hat. That’s right, the trailer for Dolittle is out.
In Dolittle, Robert Downey Jr plays Doctor Dolittle, a man who can converse with animals. It’s based on High Lofting’s book The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, and not The Story of Doctor Dolittle. We know this because the trailer doesn’t contain any gratuitous racial epithets, or a scene in which Robert Downey Jr bleaches the face of an African man. So what is it about? Glad you asked. Let’s take a look.
1. The trailer opens with a shot of a parrot soaring through the air as the obligatory slowed-down version of a popular song (in this instance, What a Wonderful World) plays in the background. The message is clear. This is a film of great majesty. To watch it will be to be rendered awestruck by the glory of nature.
2. Then we dive inside. This is a great old house, clearly owned by a magnificent eccentric. Not only does he allow a monkey full run of the place, but he’s also constructed some sort of food delivery monorail. He must be kind, and gregarious, and deeply wonderful. I can’t wait to meet him.
3. Ah, here he is. Doctor Dolittle himself. Not just that, but Doctor Dolittle played by the world’s biggest star unshackled from the world’s biggest role. Robert Downey Jr is here to show that he’s a endearingly gifted actor, and this is how he does it. He’s gazing soulfully at a hat. Just like he did in Chaplin. What a salve this must be to the three people who preferred Chaplin to Iron Man 3.
4. But what of Doctor Dolittle’s animal friends? Here, as What a Wonderful World begins to surge towards its bombastic climax, we meet a funny parrot who says silly things. You’re right, Dolittle trailer, it is indeed a wonderful world.
5. But the funny parrot is not alone. Doctor Dolittle’s friends also include an exuberant duck, an excitable gorilla, a regular dog, a dismay-filled monkey and what appears to be the lead singer of the early-90s alternative rock band Spin Doctors in polar bear form. I don’t know about you, but I’m especially looking forward to meeting the polar bear.
6. There is also an octopus. Dolittle has chosen to address the octopus by sticking his head into a tank of water. What you can’t see in this scene are all the shots of the octopus trying to work out what accent Robert Downey Jr is doing. “Are you from Yorkshire?” he asks. “Or Irish? Seriously, throw me a bone here. You’d better not be pretending to be from south-east Asia, Downey, because I thought we were ditching all of the racist stuff from the Dolittle books.”
7. Also, don’t get too attached to the gorilla, because he’s on a ship that gets bombed, so will almost certainly end up dead. OK, don’t shoot the messenger.
8. Finally, there is a tiger who wants to eat Robert Downey Jr. He probably succeeds, too. It’s quite hard to talk down a hungry tiger. Being able to talk to animals isn’t going to help him a jot. The moral of Dolittle, then, seems to be: “Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.”