“Dolittle” (Universal)

Robert Downey Jr. and a gorilla named Chee-Chee star in a scene from the movie "Dolittle." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. (CNS/Universal)

By Catholic News Service

Chaotic comic adventure, loosely based on Hugh Lofting’s “Doctor Dolittle” books for children, about a physician-turned-veterinarian (Robert Downey Jr.) who has acquired the ability to communicate with the critters he treats.

Having become a recluse after the death of his wife, he’s drawn out of seclusion when an attendant from Buckingham Palace (Carmel Laniado) brings news that Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) is gravely ill. Since the monarch’s death would mean the loss of the animal sanctuary she granted him for her lifetime, he hurries off to London, then sets off on a quest to find the mystical tree whose fruit is the only antidote to the poison the sovereign has surreptitiously been given. He’s accompanied by the good-hearted lad (Harry Collett) who’s out to become his apprentice and by his chief adviser, a wise parrot (voice of Emma Thompson) who doubles as the story’s narrator.

Director and co-writer Stephen Gaghan’s adaptation is an amiable mess — well-intentioned, but silly and disorganized. Some potentially frightening interludes and a bit of grown-up joking aside, though, worrisome elements are minimal.

Stylized action and physical violence, characters in peril, a couple of mild oaths, brief scatological and anatomical humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

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