Looking ahead to a post-Avengers career—or at least, an inter-Avengers break—Robert Downey, Jr. has booked his next non-Tony Stark role and it’s none other than Doctor Dolittle in a remake/reboot/sequel thingie absolutely nobody asked for called The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle. The film is written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, the writer of Traffic who also made Syriana, and more recently Matthew McConaughey’s gross-out flick Gold. With this pedigree I can only assume that Doctor Dolittle’s voyage involves drug smuggling, financial malfeasance, and RDJ with some combination of bad teeth, bad hair, and/or weight gain.
Making Doctor Dolittle movies is always such a joy that it’s no wonder Universal was anxious to buy in after a heated bidding war. This is a stalwart legacy, after all, that includes the 1967 musical starring Rex Harrison which went enormously over budget and featured a production plagued by law suits, bad weather, and Harrison’s drinking problem, as well as the 1998 Eddie Murphy take that is hardly remembered but at least wasn’t a bomb like the musical. Really, RDJ couldn’t be stepping into more storied shoes if he was remaking Ishtar.
There’s only one reason to make a movie like this and that’s money. Disney is busy proving there is plenty of money to be made remaking kiddie stuff— although you would think Universal would be at least a little wary after the harsh lesson of The Huntsman: Winter’s War—but for RDJ this is a no-brainer. He’s getting 25% of first-dollar gross, which is private island money, assuming the movie doesn’t bomb.
RDJ is one of the greatest actors of his generation. He’s spent a lot of time in the Marvel salt mines over the last decade, and it’s mostly been worth it, financially and critically. Tony Stark remade his career, but now he’s facing the potential end of his Iron Man run. He could do anything, and he’s choosing an ill-advised entry into a franchise that has never worked and has a high potential for Silly Hats, if they take their design cues from 1967. This is the kind of decision I expect from Johnny Depp, not RDJ.
Here's RDJ out in LA with friends earlier this month.