Robert Downey Jr. Will Talk to the Animals in New ‘Doctor Dolittle’

The 'Iron Man' star is taking over a role previously performed by Rex Harrison, Eddie Murphy and Kyla Pratt.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

They say that actors shouldn’t work with animals or kids, but Robert Downey Jr. didn’t get where he is today by adhering to conventions. The star of Iron Man and Tropic Thunder is going to talk to beasts of every shape and size in the latest adaptation of Hugh Lofting’s beloved children’s books about Doctor Dolittle, a veterinarian who claimed he could literally talk to animals.

The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle will be written and directed by Steven Gaghan, whose previous credits include thematically darker dramas like Syriana and Abandon. Hollywood Reporter reports that Universal Pictures will produce the film, which would make it the fourth live-action Doctor Dolittle to arrive in theaters, including a 1967 musical starring Rex Harrison and two broad comedies starring Eddie Murphy which, in turn, spawned three more straight-to-video sequels starring Kyla Pratt, with subtitles like Tail to the Chief and Million Dollar Mutts.

Also: Alan Menken and the Art of Disney Villain Songs (Interview)

Jokes will no doubt about about The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle being some sort of “grim and gritty” adaptation of a kids story, and that might just be possible, but Robert Downey Jr. has masterful comic timing and watching him snarkily interact with all sorts of critters is probably going to be enough of a box office draw on its own.

In the meantime, the actor is hard at work on the ambitious product of Avengers: Infinity War, which is expected to unite Iron Man with all of the other superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Presumably after such an epic ordeal he’ll be eager to just kick back and talk snide to a mongoose or something.

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Top Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for People’s Choice Awards

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.