[Note: This article contains spoilers for the part of Dolittle where a dragon farts on Robert Downey Jr.]
As the first major film project, post-Tony Stark, taken on by a now fully culturally redeemed Robert Downey Jr., Universal’s Dolittle was always going to be subject to massive, potentially unsupportable amounts of public scrutiny. But it’s likely that the film wouldn’t have fared especially well even without the weight of expectations pressing down on its fractured and tonally confused back; there’s a reason that the studio decided to dump the movie in the January death slot, where it’s become the first certified big-budget bomb of the year. Downey’s would-be star vehicle can’t even lay claim to the ridiculous splendor that’s likely to turn something like Tom Hooper’s Cats into an eventual cult favorite. Per numerous reviews, Dolittle is just a dull, confusing, and surprisingly soulless effort from the man who proved that Iron Man had a human heart.
THR ran an interesting post-mortem on the film today, though, attempting to figure out what, exactly, went wrong. The resulting story is one of camaraderie, friendship, confidence, and, apparently, a whole bunch of people shrugging and saying “I don’t know, it’ll probably turn out good.” Among other things, the article tracks the frankly boggling procession of directors and advisers brought in to “fix” director Stephen Gaghan’s film after principal photography concluded: Seth Rogen, his Neighbors writer Brendan O’Brien, Lego Batman director Chris McKay, and, finally, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) director Jonathan Liebesman were all consulted for reshoots, all with an apparent idea of turning the movie—originally much more dour, and focused on the death of the good doctor’s wife—into a more traditional family comedy. Which is, presumably, how we get to the dragon farts.
For those who haven’t seen it: The major dramatic climax of Dolittle rests on Robert Downey Jr.’s ability to convince you that he’s pulling a pair of bagpipes out of a constipated dragon’s ass—a scenario that also involves him pretending to be farted on by aforementioned dragon, of course. The really shocking part, though, is that this exercise in sub-Minions buffoonery was apparently suggested by the actor himself; although some sources in the THR article discount it, multiple others contend that the whole dragon colonoscopy/enema idea came straight out of Downey’s brain. (The accompanying “He and his reps declined to comment for this story” feels even more pointed than usual, here.)
By all accounts, though, it was at least a pretty fun shoot: Downey was reportedly up for any measure of improvisation, up to and including, well, the obvious. “You can throw so many ideas at him and have the feeling he’ll try anything and everything,” one source reported. “He’ll give you feedback. And he’ll have some ideas of his own.” Still, though, another cautioned: “When Iron Man tells you something, you listen to Iron Man.” Which does actually raise a lot of question about how the conclusion of the Avengers saga might have alternatively played out…