Australian Council on Children and the Media

Dolittle

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Short takes

Not suitable under 5; parental guidance to 8 (violence and themes of death and abandonment)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Dolittle
  • a review of Dolittle completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 20 January 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not suitable due to violence and themes of death and abandonment.
Children aged 5–8 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and themes of death and abandonment.
Children over the age of 8 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Dolittle
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and violence
Length 101 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Once the most famous man in England, Dr Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) is provided a park-like estate, by the Queen (Jessie Buckley) herself, to continue to care for and treat all manner of animals but when his adventurous wife Lily (Kasia Smutniak) sets out on a quest and never returns he shuts himself away from humanity and lives like a hermit with his animal companions.

When a young boy, Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett), with an uncanny connection to animals accidentally shoots a squirrel he, with the help of Polly the parrot (voice of Emma Thompson), finds his way to Dolittle’s estate and entreats the man to help. Simultaneously, Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado), a young charge of the queen, arrives with the news that Her Majesty is deathly ill and requests the presence of the Dr himself. Quickly deducing that the queen has been poisoned and doesn’t have long to live, Dolittle sets out on an epic quest to find the antidote. In the process Dolittle follows in the footsteps of his wife, faces his fears, mentally lays her to rest and, with the help of his unlikely friends, saves the Kingdom from ruin.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death of a loved one, abandonment, grief, overcoming fear.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • A man tries to make Tommy shoot a bunch of wild birds. Tommy misses on purpose and accidentally shoots a squirrel. He is then handed a knife and told to finish the job. He refuses to do it and runs away to save the squirrel instead.
  • Mice, who act as pieces of a chess board get whacked on the head as Dolittle and a gorilla play.
  • Cannons are repeatedly fired at Dolittle’s ship.
  • Dolittle must try to avoid being killed by a Tiger in a fighting pit.
  • Guards chase Tommy and Dolittle. They are both captured at sword point and a knife is held to Dolittle’s throat.
  • Dolittle and the British fleet that has been chasing him must fight a dragon. Many of the soldiers perish in the attack.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • A dragon guards the tree that holds the antidote for the Queen and after the soldiers try to take what they want the dragon begins to attack and devour them. The scene is very loud, intense and dark and may frighten younger viewers. Parents should also be aware that in helping the dragon Dolittle appears to pull a number of items out of its anus including helmets and armour, though this is not clearly shown.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Numerous animals are seen in cages or in chains as the film opens. Dolittle and his wife try to save as many as they can. Some images may be confronting for young and sensitive children.
  • Dolittle’s ship is attacked by a British fleet with orders to ensure that he does not make it back in time to save the queen. The boat is utterly destroyed as cannon balls rip it apart. The animals on board are nearly killed and must tread water to survive.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • When a tiger is hit in the testicles he says, “Ow. My Barry berries.”
  • A dragon fly talks about his girlfriend being engaged to someone else.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Poison is used on the Queen.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • There is one use of the word “Damn”.
  • “Oh my God” is used as an exclamation.
  • A man makes fun of Dolittle’s name, calling him “Doo- Doo.”
  • The film also contains some crude humour based on butts and farting, such as when a dragon passes gas another character talks about how he can taste it.

In a nutshell

Dolittle is a fantasy adventure film, with a predictable plot but endearing characters, best suited to families with slightly older children.

The main messages from this movie are that in order to truly live you must do what you love and that through helping others we are able to help ourselves.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Compassion
  • Helpfulness
  • Courage
  • Communication
  • Teamwork.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Seeking power and taking what is not rightfully yours.
  • Belittling the gifts of others simply because they are different or misunderstood.
  • Encouraging a child to shoot a living creature.
  • Capturing animals to be used for personal gain, money or pleasure.

 

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