The movie cost Universal $175 million to make. It was to be their tentpole. It had Robert Downey Jr. as its lead and a fun, familiar story that was supposed to captivate children and adults alike. Dolittle, with Downey Jr. as the title character, bombed. Badly. But according to insider Daniel Richtman on his Patreon page, Downey Jr. is wanting more Dolittle.
Richtman says, “RDJ still talking with studio about Dolittle 2, wants to make it and wants same cast back.” Now, while Richtman has had success in the past with his inside insights, this one maybe a little more difficult to swallow.
Robert Downey Jr’s take on the doctor who can talk to animals was fraught with trouble from the get-go and never ever recovered. Actually, it all started after the initial cut was seen by Universal executives. The movie, which was thought to be in good hands with director Stephen Gaghan (who also has a writing credit on the film), was not what the executives wanted from a Dolittle film. Gaghan was hired based on the previous work he did on the Oscar-winning movie Syriana as well as another dramatic winner, Traffic. The problem was, Gaghan had never worked comedy before, nor family film. Apparently, it showed, and reshoots were ordered.
The Robert Downey film lacked comedic elements a Dolittle film should have. The film leaned more on the death of John Dolittle’s wife than anything and the lack of animal interaction was troubling with one insider claiming via The Hollywood Reporter, “It felt like a morose father-son story, and there wasn’t a big animal presence.” So, the studio hired a hitman to help resolve the movie’s lack of fun.
Seth Rogen, along with his Neighbors co-screenwriting partner Brendan O’Brien, was brought in to help liven up the story. They even put together a proposal as to what they felt would need to be done to make the script funnier. But Rogen eventually was too busy with other projects to continue on, so he bailed. The studio then turned to Chris McKay, who had already proven his comedic abilities with The Lego Batman Movie. McKay did quite a bit of work with edits and storyboard concepts and even worked at length with Downey Jr. looking for ways to make the upcoming reshoots as cost-effective as possible.
Like Rogen, McKay had to depart the Robert Downey film when he was given the opportunity to direct his own movie, the Chris Pratt-led The Tomorrow War. Jonathan Liebesman then stepped but by that time, the train was off the rails.
When Dolittle hit movie theaters in January 2020, it was at the beginning of the pandemic. Movie theaters hadn’t begun to shutter, so there was hope. How could there not be when the movie was led by Robert Downey Jr. himself? Plus, it was Dolittle, as in Doctor Dolittle, the man who speaks to animals. A perfect setup for kids. But ultimately, as one insider said, “There was, in the end, too many cooks in this kitchen.”
To date, Dolittle has recouped some of its outrageous $175 million price tag by bringing home $251 million. When considering marketing costs, though, the film is still way in the red, which begs the question. Just how does Robert Downey Jr. plan on getting a sequel to the disaster called Dolittle to be greenlit? Would Universal even consider such a move?
Granted, Downey Jr., when he was Tony Stark/Iron Man was a big deal, but outside of the MCU, Downey Jr. hasn’t been the draw Universal may need to pull off a sequel to the Dolittle dud. To his credit, Downey Jr. does have Sherlock Holmes (a third film in the series is on its way) in his back pocket, but for the past decade or so, the only thing we’ve seen Downey Jr. in beside his Marvel appearances were the 2014 movies Chef (which he co-starred with his Iron Man pal Jon Favreau) and the crime drama The Judge. Other than that, it’s been all Avengers, all Tony Stark, and all Iron Man.
Let us know what you think. Is there room for another Robert Downey Jr. Dolittle or has his talking-to-animals day passed?