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Seth Rogen hints this Robert Downey Jr. movie was a 'scam'

If you were underwhelmed by this year's Robert Downey Jr. vehicle Dolittle, you weren't alone. Apparently, there were problems with it from the get-go.

During a recent conversation with Howard Stern, Seth Rogen opened up about the experience of carrying out an uncredited punch-up of Dolittle's screenplay — something he's often tapped to do, especially with problematic scripts. (While Rogen often serves as a writer on his own films, but it's not exactly common knowledge that he's also a screenplay fixer-upper.) In chatting with Stern, Rogen shared that "some movies are like scams," in that a story doesn't exactly work as it should and can't truly support itself but the film gets made anyway. Based on Rogen's comments, it seems he's quite familiar with movies of that nature — and has even helped try to fix one recently. 

"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," he said. "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.'"

Immediately after Rogen shared those remarks, Stern asked Rogen if he was ever brought onto a project like that. "Have you actually gone in and tried to help out a movie?" asked Stern. Rogen answered, "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 a little bit."

There were problems with Dolittle's script that Universal wanted fixed

Rogen went on to explain that while the job of a script doctor is a relatively low-pressure one from a professional and creative standpoint, that shouldn't be taken to mean that those brought in to fix what maybe can't be fixed have no horse in the race at all. 

"On the grand scale of positions to be in as a writer, it's a cushy position to be in," he said. "Stakes are low for you personally in that role, which is nice. But it's also like, you want to help! [...] I like movies, and also I like the actors in that movie, and I don't want anyone to not be happy with the movie."

On the other hand, though, Rogen noted that Universal knew there were issues with Dolittle's script, and executives needed his help — and the help of other writers — to try to patch things up. "They were having problems with the movie and were calling in people to help kind of get to the bottom of it," he shared (via HowardStern.com).

Dolittle turned out to be one of the year's worst films

Robert Downey Jr. is one of the most charismatic actors of his generation; perhaps only he could have taken what was, in 2008, a C-list Marvel superhero and built not only a trilogy around him, but also a mega-franchise destined to go down in history as the most ambitious (and profitable) cinematic undertakings ever. Even he, however, couldn't save Dolittle — the first project he took on after wrapping up his 11-year run as Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — from collapsing all the way down to its ramshackle foundations.

Released in January 2020, well before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered theaters nationwide, Dolittle drew a dismal 14 percent rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Critics lambasted every aspect of the production — from the photography to the editing to, yes, the writing, which was found to be full of lame potty humor in service of a meandering, borderline formless plot. Even Downey, a consummate professional, seemed to be phoning it in — perhaps aware that the only good thing to come out of this film was going to be his paycheck (which, you know, was pretty darn good). 

Dolittle bombed at the box office and was one of the first true turkeys of 2020, and it appears that we now know why: It just wasn't built to be anything but.