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This Irish actress plays Queen Victoria in Robert Downey Jr.'s Dolittle

This Irish actress plays Queen Victoria in Robert Downey Jr.’s Dolittle

Robert Downey Jr. has just been paid $20 million to talk to the animals in a dodgy Welsh accent in Dolittle, the $175-million new film that opened this Friday.

But who on earth would cast Irish actress Jessie Buckley, 29, as a young Queen Victoria? In real life, the Kerry-born actress has grown up as far from Buckingham Palace as it’s possible to get. 

Nevertheless, in “Dolittle” (opening Friday 17) Buckley plays the real-life Queen Victoria, who we soon discover is suffering from a mystery ailment that only one man in the kingdom can possibly cure.

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2019 is Jessie Buckley‘s breakout year

That man is 54-year-old Robert Downey Jr. the best-paid actor in Hollywood’s history. I really don’t know why he is the best-paid actor in Hollywood’s history.

Let’s be honest, he’s always just Robert Downey Jr. in every film he ever appears in, which is to say he’s Bono’s doppelganger, right down to his “I’m a cool dad” sunglasses.

Downey Jr. made an eye-watering 20 million dollars to appear in this soap bubble of a film, which proves that capitalism truly has lost the run of itself in 2020 because having watched it I find it hard to understand why anyone thought to pay him that much money could make sense?

Possibly it’s because Downey Jr. is what producers call a truly bankable star? People see his name attached to movies and they just assume what they are about to see will be good, because he is always dependably good, even when his films aren’t? 

Well the truth is “Dolittle” isn’t good, but neither is it bad. Like a shiny soap bubble, it captures your attention for a little moment and then vanishes without a trace, without leaving any offense or lasting impression. You’ll probably forget what you watched before you reach the escalator. 

As the title character Downey Jr. plays a broken man who’s wife has passed away on a fateful voyage some years earlier. In his grief and shock, he has withdrawn from the world and doesn’t want to risk exposure to any kind of hurt or heartbreak again, living in a stately home far from people and far from consequences.

But one day a request comes in from Queen Victoria (Buckley). It turns out that she is under the weather and there is only one physician she trusts to get to the bottom of it. To jolly him along she reminds Dolittle that if she passes away he will lose all claim to his house and all the animals that live in it. 

This is what is known in the film world as “the call.” Answering the call is the journey our hero takes us on, but “Dolittle” is so badly written that the animals themselves supply all the exposition. “He’s afraid to expose his emotions to the world,” says a cute little tiger cub at one point, leading some in the audience to shout back “look, we get it.”

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Robert Downry Jr stars in Dolittle

Dolittle” is charming, silly, expensive looking and full of jokes about breaking wind, which is all you have to do to entertain young people nowadays, but it is not memorable, smart, perceptive, funny or moving. 

It passes the time tolerably well but no more than that. If they spent 175 million on it, couldn’t they have given some extra money to all the writers to do their best work? Instead “Dolittle” feels like it was written by a state-appointed committee after extensive audience testing. It has nothing original to say about life or people and to be honest it can sound pretty out of date when it tries to. 

As for the plot, if you could call it plot, as “Dolittle” progresses we learn that some awful cad has been secretly poisoning the queen in an attempt to wrest her power from her.

But here’s the thing, there are only two main female characters in “Dolittle.” One is Dolittle‘s already dead wife and the other is the rapidly dying queen and for most of the film, neither woman gets much of a look in. 

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Robert Downry Jr stars in Dolittle

It seems incredible that we are still making damsel in distress films over a hundred years on from the invention of modern cinema because to be fair women have done things like invent world-changing vaccines, circumnavigate the globe, fly into space, found fortune 100 companies and so on. 

It seems incredible to me that we are still casting actresses with the range Buckley has already proved she has to play props for the men to fight over.

Despite all my misgivings, Dolittle will probably be the box office success of the month when it opens on Friday. Nothing succe like stupidity and for extra measure, the film features almost every major Hollywood star or teen crush of the moment (Tom Holland and Rami Malek both have credits in the film).

But that still doesn’t mean what you saw was any good. “Dolittle” may be able to talk to the animals but neither he nor they have anything interesting to say at all.

Dolittle opens Friday 17.