Despite being instantly labeled as one of the worst movies of the year even though it only arrived in the third week of January and bombing so hard that it stands to lose Universal $100 million in the long run, Dolittle still ranks as the third highest-grossing film of 2020 after earning $236 million at the box office before the industry was brought to its knees by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Robert Downey Jr.’s post-MCU career didn’t get off to the best of starts, with reports claiming that the family film’s dismal performance had seen him drastically lower his asking price to reprise the role of Tony Stark, and even with extensive reshoots and several delays, the best Dolittle could come up with was having their leading man perform a colonoscopy on a dragon.
As the budget ballooned to $175 million in an attempt to salvage what was inevitably shaping up to be a disaster, a whole host of talents were brought on to try and right the ship including Battle: Los Angeles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles director Jonathan Liebesman, The LEGO Movie‘s Chris Mackay, and Seth Rogen and his Neighbors co-writer Brendan O’Brien.
In a recent interview, Rogen reflected on his time working on Dolittle, and he certainly made it sound as though the troubled production was far beyond saving long before he was brought on as a last-minute script doctor.
“Some movies are like scams. It’s like buying blueprints to a house that looks nice, but when you try to actually build the house it doesn’t stand up properly. That is a thing that happens with films and I recognize it sometimes. Where I will see a movie and be like, ‘Oh they lied, whoever wrote and directed this movie lied’. They made it seem like they were selling the studio an actual, functional film but they did not. They sold them like the schematics of a movie that when built does not hold up to stress testing. I’ll only say this because it was reported, and I’m going to tread lightly because I am close with many of the people involved, but I did that on the Dr. Dolittle film.”
Even if the release schedule for the year hadn’t been reduced to a barren wasteland, Dolittle would still be well-positioned to claim the unwanted title of both 2020’s worst blockbuster and biggest box office bomb, and it’s likely that no amount of script doctoring could have improved a project that many people were predicting would flop from the second it was first announced.