Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for January, 2020

What Makes Brian Schultz, CEO of Studio Movie Grill, Tick?

Friday, January 31st, 2020

KIDS FIRST! launches a series of C-Suite interviews with leading entertainment industry executives who are true role models for young people. This week we feature KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. interviewing Brian Schultz, Founder and CEO of Studio Movie Grill. Schultz shares his story of how he got started in the entertainment world, what he looks for in employees, advice to young people, and explains SMG’s motto: Opening Hearts And Minds One Story At A Time.

Having just opened a new 60,000 square feet theater in Glendale, CA with a high tech cinema that amps it up to give moviegoers a first class dining experience with a full-service restaurant and bar, while enjoying first-run movies. This location will host premieres, special events and fundraisers, as well as SMG’s legacy Special Needs Screenings and Chefs for Children program which benefit local charities.

Enjoy Gerry O.’s Interview with Brian Schultz, Founder and CEO, Studio Movie Grill

From one screen in 1993, to over 250 screens today, Studio Movie Grill and Brian Schultz have come a long way together. It wasn’t long ago that Brian was working every position on a Friday night, to leading a Top 20 theater chain today with thousands of team members. Despite the challenges of building a business, one thing has remained the same…positively impacting lives through the power of movies and sustainable deeds is good business for everyone. Brian Schultz’s vision raises the bar for cinemas nationwide.

For more information and to find a location near you, visit https://www.studiomoviegrill.com/locations

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Author’s Page – Amazon
World According to G

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Oscar Nominated Shorts – Saria, Sisters and Walk Run Cha-Cha

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

While feature films with A-list actors garner the most attention at the Oscars, the award show also has three short film categories that seldom receive the attention they deserve. For that reason, the Malibu Film Society held a free screening for Saria (Nominated, Best Live Action Short), Sister (Nominated, Best Animated Short) and Walk Run Cha-Cha (Nominated, Best Documentary Short). 

Each film coveys wildly different topics but shares a universal goal of showing something that needs to be discussed. Saria’s haunting story shows that outside the developed safety of western nations, there exists corruption, injustice and innocents powerless to defend themselves, with humanitarian disasters occurring frequently that never receive the spotlight of the western world. Sister examines the very real and emotional connection between siblings and forces the audience to carefully consider the value of human life. Walk Run Cha-Cha mixes the passion of dance and shows how love can beat the boundaries of time and space.

Each film deals with loss in its story. Saria follows the true story of a group of children in an orphanage in Guatemala that suffer from constant abuse and their eventual revolt against their abusers, ultimately leading to a tragedy. Sister uses the beautiful expressionism of stop motion animation to creatively show the relationship between a big brother and little sister and by the end, it inspires careful thought about who has a right to be born. Walk Run Cha-Cha tells the story of a couple that falls in love in Vietnam before the Vietnam War, become separated by the political turmoil, only to reconnect a long six years later and have incredible talents as professional dancers.

Saria developed its main characters in a way that ensured the audience connected to the children’s suffering: the film took time to portray its young characters as normal teenagers. They felt jealousies, had their first loves, shared silly rumors and had colorful dreams of the future, which only helped further the pain of seeing such injustices committed against them.

Sisters, made by students at Cal Arts, shows how excellent stop motion can be. The movements look as smooth as digital animation and have as much possibility as digital animation. The short, eight-minute story develops its characters perfectly and feels authentic and relatable to anyone watching. Yet, its large reveal at the end could have been done better – minutes before the narrator unveils the twist, the visuals foreshadow the twist. By having this slow unveiling of the surprise at the end, it lowers its emotional impact on the audience. Yet, it perfectly tackles what can be considered a political topic in a very unbiased way, allowing viewers from any point of view to enjoy it.

Walk Run Cha-Cha perfectly connects the audience to the couple on-screen by examining their lives, habits and most importantly, their story. While the scenes of the couple dancing would warm anyone’s heart, the documentary poorly connects them to the story of how political turmoil separated their love, creating an odd contrast between the film discussing their past and their present love of dance.

All three films have many lessons for adults to learn but may be difficult for younger children to understand, so I recommend all three films for ages 14 to 18. While Saria may be intense for children as young as 14, it should be remembered that the youngest victims in the tragedy were 14 years old. Showing films like this can help children understand early on how people in the west have it much easier, compared to those in other parts of the world. 

Because of Saria’s exceptional reenactment of a heart-aching tragedy, I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Sisters portrays a real-life relationship between siblings, realistically and maintained and impressively neutral in a deeply partisan political issue but fails in the delivery of the most important twist of the story and so I give it 4 out of 5 stars. While Walk Run Cha-Cha shows the human consequences of global conflicts such as the Vietnam War quite well, it fails to connect its two subplots – the history of the couple’s relationship and their dancing, in a meaningful way. Hence, I give it 3 ½ out of 5 stars. All three are nominated for an Oscar, so keep that in mind when you watch the award’s show on February 2, 2020.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

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Troop Zero * Terrific Combination of Comedy, Drama and Diversity with a Great Cast

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

In rural 1977 Georgia, a misfit girl dreams of life in outer space. When a competition offers her a chance to be recorded on NASA’s Golden Record, she recruits a makeshift troop of Birdie Scouts, forging friendships that last a lifetime. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ethan P. comments, “I like this movie because it is a combination of comedy, drama, diversity and great casting, especially the children actors… My favorite part is when Christmas starts recruiting kids to belong to her troop.” Abigail Zoe L. adds, “I recently saw the inspiring new Amazon Prime movie, Troop Zero, and love it. It’s a warm-hearted coming-of-age story with a beautiful, positive message and a fun adventure throughout. The movie guides us through the story of a quirky girl, Christmas Flint played by the talented McKennaGrace and her rag tag group of Birdies known as Troop Zero.” See their full reviews below.

Troop Zero
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

I like this movie because it is a combination of comedy, drama, diversity and great casting, especially the children actors.  This film is an Amazon Prime original and has a duration of 1 hour and 37 minutes.

TROUPE ZERO featuring Allison Janney and Viola Davis courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Troop Zero timeline is the late 70’s and the storyline is about a young girl named Christmas (McKenna Grace) who’s obsessed with outer space, aliens and planets.  She finds out there is a competition that offers her to be recorded on NASA’s Golden Record, but in order to compete she needs to belong to a Girl’s Scout troop.  She recruits four challenging kids and asks her father’s (Jim Gaffigan) co-worker, Mrs. Rayleen (Viola Davis), to be her Troop Mom.  The five children go through tough and exciting experiences in order to earn their badges to enter the NASA’s competition.  During their journey, all five children create a strong bond and friendship.
 
My favorite part is when Christmas starts recruiting kids to belong to her troop.  Troop Zero has amazing actors such as Award Winner Viola Davis, Jim Gaffigan, Allison Janney and McKenna Grace from The Haunting of Hill House.  Charlie Shotwell, who portrays Joseph, Christmas’ best friend, pulls off an amazing performance as a feminine boy.  I am happy to see Johanna Colon (internet dancing sensation) play Smash, in this movie.  She’s great!  The scenery and costumes are typical 70s style, including the hairstyles.  The story line is bit slow in the beginning, but later it gets interesting.  You will experience laughter, sadness and tears of joy with this movie.

The moral of this film is to have a child’s heart when it comes to choosing your friends or recruiting a team.  Christmas does not discriminate against skin color, gender identity, religion or personalities when it comes to recruiting her troop and becomes friends with all four of them because she sees their hearts, not what society considers flaws.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars because the beginning is rather slow.  I recommend it for ages 8 to 18.  Older adults might enjoy this movie as well.  Troop Zero is available on Amazon Prime beginning January 17, 2020.

Troop Zero
By Abigail Zoe L. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I recently saw the inspiring new Amazon Prime movie, Troop Zero, and love it. It’s a warm-hearted coming-of-age story with a beautiful, positive message and a fun adventure throughout. The movie guides us through the story of a quirky girl, Christmas Flint played by the talented McKennaGrace and her rag tag group of Birdies known as Troop Zero.

TROUPE ZERO featuring Jim Gaffigan courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Christmas is passionate about science. She wants to connect to the universe and her late mom through a NASA competition. The winner will have their voice recorded and sent out to the universe for posterity on a Golden Record. This movie is a journey of self-discovery, not only for Christmas, but everyone that is a part of her adventure. Each person learns more about themselves as they work together.

  
One of my favorite scenes is at the end of the movie, when the cast comes together and performs at the jamboree competition. I won’t give away what happens but it is an emotional moment when they take a stand to be accepted for who they are. Another favorite scene is the baking fight scene. I bet it was so much fun for the actors to film, because it is absolutely hilarious and, at the same time, cathartic as a baking food fight between Troops Zero and Birdie. My question for you is: Who do you think won? LOL.

TROOP ZERO featuring Mckenna Grace courtesy of Amazon Studios.

The acting by McKenna Grace as Christmas Flint and Viola Davis as Miss Rayleen, is perfect. Each of them make the audience believe in the struggles they face during the movie. McKenna really embraces her character with the lopsided haircut and awkward, quirky moves. However, I particularly connected with her character’s father, Ramsey Flint (Gaffigan), because he so perfectly portrays the ideal father. He reminded me of my own father, who while not perfect, truly loves his daughter and wants her to be happy and achieve her dreams. Indeed, theirs is a father-daughter relationship very touching that I think families will connect with.

The moral of the story is to be yourself, listen to your heart and, if people try to knock you down, just keep on fighting the good fight for what you believe in. This is definitely a triumphant movie of self-acceptance and overcoming life challenges and one definitely to watch. This film would be especially enjoyable for those who love science. The transition of Troop Zero becoming Troop Hero is inspiring and uplifting. At the same time, the critic in me did find the film a little slow moving at times. All said, I think it is a wonderful movie and give it 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. It is airing on Amazon Prime beginning January 17, 2020.

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Jungle Fun with Munki and Trunk * Adorable selection of stories that teaches lessons about nature and friendship

Monday, January 20th, 2020

Munki and Trunk: Ain’t no mountain high enough, river wide enough, or banana big enough to tear these two apart! Our brave, curious monkey and big-hearted elephant live together in the jungle, as children imagine it: a playground with vines to swing on, trampoline mushrooms to bounce on, and a crew of jungle buddies to share endless adventures. Munki and Trunk explore their world together, facing fears, having fun and helping friends in a comedy adventure that s brim-full of heart, and built on a bedrock of friendship. Includes 8 tree-crashing, rock-smashing, water-splashing, fruit-mashing episodes! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Brad M. comments, “Jungle Fun with Munki and Trunk is an adorable selection of stories compiled onto one DVD. The fun adventures that Munki and Trunk experience are simple, yet engaging to watch. These best friends sure know how to have a good time!” Ethan P. adds, “I like this DVD because it is cute and funny to watch.  It makes me smile through all eight episodes, each around seven and a half minutes.” Cadence G. wraps it up with, “I like this film for its animation, but I typically enjoy films that have dialogue (which this doesn’t). The characters are cute, especially the hedgehog with his spunky attitude. I also like how colorful the scenes are. It is nice to see a change of scenery, since I’m often surrounded by snow, living in northern Minnesota.” See their full reviews below.

Jungle Fun with Munki and Trunk
By Brad M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

Jungle Fun with Munki and Trunk is an adorable selection of stories compiled onto one DVD. The fun adventures that Munki and Trunk experience are simple, yet engaging to watch. These best friends sure know how to have a good time!

This compilation of episodes follows two main characters, Munki and Trunk, as they explore the world together. Along the way, these jungle animals learn lessons about nature, their friendship, as well as their own unique qualities. The protagonists quite often face their fears with one another and help them grow as individuals.

An interesting part of the world the characters live in is how they communicate through noises and actions, rather than actual words. Brent Dawes, the voice actor for Munki, and Alison Lambole, the voice actress for Trunk, are terrific at making the animal noises comprehensible for the audience. I love how bright and fun the animation in this show is. The jungle and characters all have a very playful vibe that keeps the audience super intrigued with each adventure. For example, each tree is animated with a particular texture that is incredible to look at. One issue I have with the DVD is how repetitive it is, but I believe that is effective for younger viewers. The two goofballs (Munki and Trunk) are amazing at bringing creativity to really simplistic scenarios. For example, the two characters are chasing a rainbow and decide to run through it. When going through the rainbow they change colors like a chameleon and then end up swimming up the rainbow,

Jungle Fun with Munki and Trunk has many lessons to teach viewers. My favorite is that each animal is their own individual, yet they all get along and coexist so well with one another. I think we can use this in our lives – to not worry about other people’s perceptions of us, because we should all be kind to one another regardless. Another moral of these stories is how effective teamwork is in problem solving. It seems that every episode has some type of roadblock or obstacle to overcome, and only when the two friends stand together they can prevail over the problem.

I give Jungle Fun with Munki and Trunk 4 out of 5 stars and recommend for kids 2 to 8. It is available now on DVD, so go check it out!

Jungle Fun with Munki and Trunk
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

I like this DVD because it is cute and funny to watch.  It makes me smile through all eight episodes, each around seven and a half minutes. Jungle Fun with Munk and Trunk DVD is approximately 60 minutes long.  The adventurous episodes include:  “Hot Stuff,” “Rainbow Rising,” “Bubble Trouble,” “Copycat,” “Hypno-Munki,” “Boing Boing,” “Sticky Situation,” and “Midnight Run.” 

Jungle Fun with Munki and Trunk is about an elephant and a monkey who live together in the jungle.  They have adventures that range from comedy to scary situations.  Munki is a very curios and friendly monkey, while Trunk is a big-hearted, kind elephant.  They are friends with everyone in the jungle and very nice to other animals in need.  The jungle is their playground.  The vines are their swings, the mushrooms are their trampolines to bounce on.  The graphics are super amazing and the colors are very bright. The animation can be compared to Disney’s animated movies.  The forest looks so realistic; it looks like a real forest with real animals.  The music and theme song are very pleasant and delightful to listen to.  There is no dialog in this DVD.

My favorite episode is “Rainbow Rising,” because it is very funny.  It’s about Munki and Trunk finding berries that makes their skin or fur look blue.  They go around showing every one that they are blue.  Then, the blue wears off and they get upset.  Munki and Trunk soon see a rainbow.  They play in the rainbow and soon it makes them change colors, so they are happy again.  

There are multiple morals for different episodes but the overall moral is about accepting people for who they are, with their perfections and flaws. Nobody is perfect and true friendship is about accepting each other for who they are.  Part of the lyrics from the theme songs says, “Ain’t no mountain high enough, river to wide enough, or banana big enough to tear these two apart!”  Munki and Trunk are completely different animals, but they are still inseparable best friends.

I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars because and recommend it for ages 3 to 18. Adults can enjoy this DVD with their children as well. It is available now so look for it.              

Jungle Fun with Munki And Trunk
By Cadence G., KIDS  FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

I like this film for its animation, but I typically enjoy films that have dialogue (which this doesn’t). The characters are cute, especially the hedgehog with his spunky attitude. I also like how colorful the scenes are. It is nice to see a change of scenery, since I’m often surrounded by snow, living in northern Minnesota.

This DVD is a collection of episodes about the jungle adventures of two friends—a monkey named Munki and an elephant named Trunk. They have fun together and meet new friends, but always seem to get in a little bit of trouble. They discover really cool things in the jungle and luckily can use many of the things they find to have some fun.

In one episode the elephant (Trunk) and monkey (Munki) start out being too hot, so they find different ways to cool off. They try to find shade and find themselves getting to a place that has snow, where they roll a huge snowball to try to get the hot spot cooler. At another time, they have fun changing colors and use grapes to turn purple, but then the rain washes away the colors. After finding a rainbow, they and other animals start changing colors. In their next adventure, Munki and Trunk find themselves in space because they chewed too much bubble gum. They start copying each other and get all the animals around them involved. Munki winds up hypnotizing all of the animals so they start acting like monkeys. In other adventures they find a plant that has a liquid that causes them to turn into Jello. They lose control over their bodies, while another liquid sticks to everything. There’s an ostrich that appears throughout the film that is always trying to protect her eggs.

My favorite part of the film is the music, composed by Andries Smit, because it is very catchy. It’s exciting and upbeat. It brings out the happiness of the characters. Some episodes on this DVD are a bit cheesy, but would probably appeal to a younger audience. I found myself laughing at one point when Munki and Trunk are squished in a bubble and get stuck in a tree. It is also fun to see all of the animals change colors and watch how excited they get. Listening to the animals just make noises gets a little annoying, but the animation, done by Infinite Studios, is great and gives lots of personality to the characters.

The message of the film is to trust your friends. Munki and Trunk show that you can get through almost any sticky situation by working together and using the problem as the solution.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend this DVD to ages 4 to 8. The DVD is available now, so look for it.

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Dolittle * Great CGI, Cinematography and Visual Effects

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Dr. John Dolittle lives in solitude behind the high walls of his lush manor in 19th-century England. His only companionship comes from an array of exotic animals that he speaks to on a daily basis. But when young Queen Victoria becomes gravely ill, the eccentric doctor and his furry friends embark on an epic adventure to a mythical island to find the cure. Dominic D. comments, “Wow! The long anticipation of Dolittle is well worth the wait! A big two thumbs up for director Stephen Gaghan, for knocking this action-packed, comical, fun-loving film out of the ball park!” Arjun N. adds, “Dolittle does little in terms of original storytelling, but this reboot offers colorful ambiance and magical performances. Anyone interested in big budget family entertainers is sure to get their money’s worth on a matinee.” Katherine S. has another take on it, “What a terrific movie!  The dialogue among the characters is so much fun and the cinematography, costumes and visual effects are so beautiful and well done.” Jude A. adds, “Dolittle is a roaring, barking and chirping fantasy adventure story with great humor and special effects…Unfortunately, even though the film is not very long (an hour and 41 minutes), some scenes seem very slow and the film feels a lot longer than it actually is. The movie is very comedic and has some laugh out loud moments, but sometimes the humor seems a little forced and unfunny.” And Sahiba K. wraps it with, “Unfortunately, Dolittle left me confused because its storyline is all over the place. There are too many plot elements to follow and they do not tie together cohesively in the end.” Their full reviews are below. You decide.

Dolittle
By Dominic D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 9

Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. John Dolittle in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

Wow! The long anticipation of Dolittle is well worth the wait! A big two thumbs up for director Stephen Gaghan, for knocking this action-packed, comical, fun-loving film out of the ball park!  The film, although perhaps a little lengthier for younger kids, keeps viewers on the edge of their seats while they take in all the adventure, suspense, laughs and emotion that this film offers. I left the theater with an appreciation of the quote, “It’s truly by helping others that you can help yourself!”

The film follows the life of quirky veterinarian Dr. John Dolittle, of Victorian England, who has a sure connection with animals. Dr. Dolittle becomes reclusive, hiding behind the walls of Dolittle Mansion following the death of his beloved wife Lily. His only companions since her death are his furred and feathered friends that the animation department has excelled in giving anthropomorphic qualities to.  Dolittle is quite content with his lifestyle, void of humans, until he has to make a decision when the very ill Queen of England calls on him to help save her from sickness. Dr. Dolittle appears to be the only person able to bring the Queen the secret antidote to reverse the symptoms of her sudden illness. The doctor, along with his humorous animal crew and new young, self-appointed assistant, set sail in search of the cure which will save the Queen from dying. They encounter several obstacles while on their journey, which adds to the suspense, adventure and comedy of the film.

(from left) Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) and Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

The star of film, Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. Dolittle plays his role well. He also is one of the film’s executive producers. Hats off to the very lengthy list of animators who bring Dolittle’s friends to life and make us laugh at each of their personalities. The animatronics are by far my favorite part of this movie. It was also super fun to try to identify the many voices behind Dr. Dolittle’s menagerie. I especially love the voice of Craig Robinson who plays Kevin, the squirrel with an attitude. The locations also deserve mentioning. Landscapes are lush, bright and so captivating, which adds such so much to this film.

The message in Dolittle is all about relationships. You have to have a sense of imagination to appreciate the connection between Dr. Dolittle and his animal friends, but the message is clear that no matter how diversified living things are, we can find a way to connect, communicate and appreciate one another.The film writers gathered together a variety of different characters that show that no matter what their limitations, they can interact with each other and build heartwarming friendships. This film allows us to open up our minds about differences and promotes positive interactions.

I give Dolittle 5 out of 5 stars and, if I could rate it higher, I would! I recommend it to ages 5 to 18. Dolittle is the perfect family film and adults will love it as much as kids. Dolittle opens January 17, 2020 in theaters. This is a film that you do not want to miss…mark your calendars!

Dolittle
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

(from left) Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) and Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) in “Dolittle.”

What a terrific movie!  The dialogue among the characters is so much fun and the cinematography, costumes and visual effects are so beautiful and well done.

Dolittle takes a new spin on the infamous tale of Dr. Dolittle, who is of course the doctor that speaks to animals. The story begins at Dolittle Mansion, which is an estate provided to him by the Queen of England for serving as her veterinarian. Dolittle Mansion is a sanctuary open to all animals until his wife passes away on an adventure and Dr. Dolittle closes it and isolates himself from people.  As the Queen falls ill, Dr. Dolittle is convinced to go on an adventure to find a cure to help save the Queen before it’s too late!  

(clockwise, from bottom left) Ostrich Plimpton (Kumail Nanjiani), monkeys Elliot and Elsie, parrot Polynesia (Emma Thompson), polar bear Yoshi (John Cena), Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) and sugar glider Mini (Nick A. Fisher) in “Dolittle.”

The movie trailer does not do this movie justice as I was not overly excited to see movie before going to the screening. My feelings changed greatly after I watched the movie. The writing is very clever with the dialogue for the animals. Everything they say is witty and playful. I also love that the animal characters aren’t stereotypical, as they all need a little bit of fixing. There are some magnificent actors in Dolittle, such as Robert Downey Jr. (as Dr. Dolittle), Harry Collett (as Stubbins, Dr. Dolittle’s self-appointed apprentice), Emma Thompson (as the parrot Polly and Dr. Dolittle’s advisor), Rami Malek (as the funny gorilla Chee-Chee), Octavia Spencer (as the enthusiastic duck Dab-Dab), Tom Holland (as the sight-challenged dog Jip), Craig Robinson (as the wise-cracking squirrel Kevin) and Selena Gomez (as the giraffe Betsy). My favorite character is Kevin since he made me laugh the most.

The messages of this movie are about perseverance and the importance of family and friends to help you overcome obstacles. Dolittle has no bad language, but it does have some mild violence and action scenes, primarily among the animals.

I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 9 to 14. Adults will also like this movie. This movie opens in theaters January 17, 2020. Check it out.

Dolittle
By Jude A., KIDS FIRST Film Critic, age 13

(from left) Polar bear Yoshi (John Cena), Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) and gorilla Chee-Chee (Rami Malek) in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

Dolittle is a roaring, barking and chirping fantasy adventure story with great humor and special effects. The film has amazing CGI and the animals look completely real. The movie also has very creative dialogue that fits each of the characters very well. The film has very vibrant colors and beautiful landscapes. Unfortunately, even though the film is not very long (an hour and 41 minutes), some scenes seem very slow and the film feels a lot longer than it actually is. The movie is very comedic and has some laugh out loud moments, but sometimes the humor seems a little forced and unfunny.

Dolittle follows the retired Doctor Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) after his wife passes away from a shipwreck. An odd boy named Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) seems to have the same animal talking abilities as Doctor Dolittle himself and becomes his apprentice. When the Queen of Buckingham Palace (Jessie Buckley) falls gravely ill, Doctor Dolittle, Stubbins and the rest of the animal gang embark on a journey to attain the cure for the Queen to preserve the land they live on and the animal’s sanctuary.

Antonio Banderas as Rassouli in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

It is difficult to cast people for this kind of film, because we’re dealing with lots of animals and I think the casting is amazing! The voiceovers for the animals really make a big difference because they add humor, drama and suspense. The dialogue is very creative and fits each animal very well, making them seem very real. For the most part, the dialogue is very entertaining and creative. However, some lines try to force the humor and come off as not humorous at all. Robert Downey Jr.’s performance is spot on, but his accent seems a little off and inconsistent throughout the film. It seems as if he is trying to be too exotic and it doesn’t work.

Dolittle fits the PG rating. It has some action and possibly scary creatures that could be frightening to younger viewers. The message of the film is about helping other people, even when it does not benefit you personally. It also points out that when something gets in your way of reaching your goal, don’t give up, figure out a new way to reach that goal. Be creative. Think outside the box.

Dolittle did not soar as high as the parrots do in the film so I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. It has amazing visuals and CGI, but forced jokes and slow scenes. I recommend this film for ages 8 to 18. Dolittle opens in theaters January 17, 2020. Look for it. 

Dolittle
By Sahiba K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

(from left) Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) and Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

Unfortunately, Dolittle left me confused because its storyline is all over the place. There are too many plot elements to follow and they do not tie together cohesively in the end. Most of the characters have vague back-stories which are presented in ways that prevent any character from becoming fully developed.

The story follows the grief-stricken Doctor Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) who is mourning the death of his wife. He lives alone with his animal friends including Chee-Chee (Rami Malek), a gorilla and Yoshi (John Cena), a polar bear. When the Queen of England (Jessie Buckley) falls ill, she calls upon Dolittle for help. To save the Queen, he must embark on a perilous journey to find a mythical healing fruit.

Robert Downey Jr. has the quirkiness and personality to play an eccentric individual like Dolittle. However, his potential is overshadowed by his perplexing accent which feels forced and, thus, his voice does not match his emotions or actions very well. Rami Malek plays my favorite character, Chee-Chee, and gives him a sweet, loveable personality. Unfortunately, due to the excess of poorly developed characters, Chee-Chee’s character arch seems irrelevant even though he is one of the better characters.

Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. John Dolittle in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

The graphics are well done in some aspects but not in others. The gorilla, polar bear and the parrot all look realistic and have features that add to their cuteness. Other animals such as the dragonfly and the ostrich do not look realistic, which disrupts the mood, making it cartoonish, and contributing to the chaos I felt when viewing the film. Moreover, the graphics in exciting scenes, such as those that take place on the ships, are noticeably done in CGI and thus the realistic aspect is not achieved.

The saving grace is the creative incorporation of the animals. I enjoyed the scenes where Dolittle uses his gift of animal communication to ask for help, whether to solve the mystery of the Queen’s illness or to run away from the antagonist.

The message of Dolittle is that the best way to help yourself is to help others. However, this message is stated by the narrator at the end and is otherwise loosely relevant to what happens throughout the film. I give Dolittle 2 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. Check out Dolittle when it opens in theatres January 17, 2020.

Dolittle
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

Dolittle does little in terms of original storytelling, but this reboot offers colorful ambiance and magical performances. Anyone interested in big budget family entertainers is sure to get their money’s worth on a matinee.

(from left) Ostrich Plimpton (Kumail Nanjiani), duck Dab-Dab (Octavia Spencer), Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett), polar bear Yoshi (John Cena), gorilla Chee-Chee (Rami Malek) and parrot Polynesia (Emma Thompson) in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.


The reimagining of the Dr. Dolittle franchise follows the eccentric Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), famed English doctor and veterinarian, who hermits himself away behind the high walls of Dolittle Manor with only his collection of exotic animals for company. When the young queen (Jessie Buckley) falls ill, her daughter Rose (Carmel Laniado) asks a reluctant Dolittle to set sail to a mythical island in search of a cure, regaining his humanity and courage and gaining a young, self-appointed apprentice Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett).


Robert Downey Jr. brings his signature charisma and his posh British accent to fill the energetic void left by January releases. His conversations with his animals are seamless; keep in mind, he’s talking to larger-than-life CGI constructions. Regarding the big ensemble cast voicing the animals, they’re all great if a little bit reliant on star power. You wouldn’t know big list actors are voicing the animals without background research or watching the credits. However, there are a few noteworthy exceptions including Rami Malek’s Chee-Chee, a paranoid gorilla, which is greatly characterized and developed. Emma Thompson brings her acerbic demeanor as Poly the parrot. I also enjoyed John Cena and Kumail Nanjiani, as Yoshi and Plimpton, the bickering and bantering polar bear and ostrich that serve as the film’s comic relief. Finally, the film has impressive child performances from Harry Collett, who previously acted on Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and Carmel Laniado, both of whose screen presence holds well alongside Robert Downey Jr.

Octavia Spencer voices duck Dab-Dab in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

I enjoyed the special effects as they are truly impressive to look at, even a bit too flashy at times. The director Stephen Gaghan blueprints the film in an honest way. However, his writing is trope-ridden and uninspired, at times hodgepodging rather than creating. Don’t expect a developed plot, even if some good messages prevail.

The message of this film is about allowing friends to carry your back as Dolittle realizes his reclusiveness is unhealthy and decides to be better. I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18. The movie releases in theaters January 17, 2020, so check it out.

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