Based on the series of books by Hugh Lofting first published almost a century ago, Doctor Dolittle has seen several live-action movie adaptations over the years. The first came in 1967 with Rex Harrison in the title role, though most modern moviegoers probably associate the character with Eddie Murphy's 1998 interpretation - a box office success that spawned multiple sequels, albeit with diminishing returns.
With Hollywood's current emphasis on sequels and remakes, it should come as little surprise that a new version of Doctor Dolittle is now in the works at Universal Pictures, with the titular animal lover set to be played by none other than Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes himself, Robert Downey Jr. It was previously reported that Stephen Gaghan (Gold, Syriana) would be taking on directorial duties, with Joe Roth, Jeff Kirschenbaum and Susan Downey in producing roles.
In a press release, Universal have now confirmed that the project has been set for release on May 24th, 2019. The studio also stresses that the movie is currently untitled - after earlier reports that the film would be based on Lofting's The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle - and that Downey shall be delivering a "signature new take on the character". Universal also confirmed that Gaghan has written the most recent draft of the screenplay, based on an earlier script draft by Tom Shepherd.
The May 2019 release date does seemingly put Downey's Doctor Dolittle up against some stiff cinematic competition. The as-yet-untitled fourth Avengers movie is set for release earlier in the month - ensuring 2019 will be the summer of Downey Jr. - and also currently reported for release on May 24th is another family-friendly offering, in the form of the Minecraft video game movie adaptation.
For some, the news of yet another - unwarranted, some may argue - remake is a yawn-worth addition to the cinematic calendar. Such movies have a checkered recent history, with updated versions of Pan and Ben-Hur falling flat. Additionally, given that Eddie Murphy's incarnation of the Doctor is how most people currently envisage the character, many viewers may be expecting another light-hearted comedy escapade and it appears as though the Robert Downey Jr. version will be more faithful to the original book series.
With that said, the new Doctor Dolittle movie has a strong team with some serious pedigree behind it. The production duo of Roth and Kirschenbaum were previously responsible for Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, both of which were commercially remakes of classic stories. Furthermore, Downey himself proved with Sherlock Holmes that he is highly capable of taking a beloved character from literature and putting his own spin on the role, while also remaining (somewhat) faithful to the source material.
Source: Universal Pictures
- Dolittle (2020) release date: Jan 17, 2020