Rated G - Running Time: 1:41 - Released 11/22/00

Whether it's dogs, rats, grinches, or even llamas, holiday children's movies represent another kind of animal for the industry: huge bucks. Taking the kids to a half dozen movies in a month has become a tradition of the season for most moms and dads, whether it's to provide the other parent with some private shopping time or just to get in out of the cold, and Hollywood doesn't mind this a bit. There are always different levels of quality in these G- and PG-rated releases, however; some films cry out for the whole family's participation, while others are what I'd call "babysitter movies." Kevin Lima's 102 Dalmatians, the sequel to the remake of the classic animated Disney cartoon about a swarm of spotted pooches, falls squarely into the latter category. It's not that the film is bad — it's cute, it serves its purpose...but it's hardly spectacular. Perhaps the phrase "sequel to the remake" has something to do with it: the idea is getting tired, and Lima's workmanlike presentation reflects this. On the other hand, the antics of 100 black and white spotted puppies are sure to please the kiddies, and Glenn Close's high-energy return to her signature role of Cruella DeVil will likely amuse their older companions.

Having spent three years in the London slammer for her canicidal exploits in 1996's 101 Dalmatians, plus undergoing the revolutionary treatment of psychologist Dr. Pavlov, Cruella emerges a changed woman. Still sporting a strictly black and white hair and clothing style, she claims not to have a harmful bone in her body, especially regarding doggies. In order to prove her newfound PETA-esque sensibilities, she buys out the struggling 2nd Chance animal shelter, rescuing it and its owner Kevin (Ioan Gruffudd) from bankruptcy. She spends millions on the place and launches a huge, multimedia advertising campaign. However, it seems that Pavlov's experimental treatment can be reversed by the sound of Big Ben tolling, and as soon as Cruella hears it, she's back to her old ways, plotting to find 102 black-and-white dotty dogs with which to make the most beautiful fur coat ever. She enlists the help of her former rival, renowned furrier Jean Pierre Le Pelt (Gérard Depardieu), although it is her stuttering butler Alonzo (Tim McInnerny) who does all the dirty work.

Although the trusting Kevin has no reason to doubt his wealthy savior and co-worker, probation officer Cloe Simon (Alice Evans) is not so sure Cruella has changed her ways, and she has reason to be especially concerned, herself owning a pair of Dalmatians with a new litter of pups. Sure enough, Cruella has her eye on those dogs most of all, except for one named Oddball who lacks spots. And it is Oddball, aided by several other shelter dogs and a parrot who thinks he's a rottweiler (voiced by Eric Idle), who is instrumental in foiling Cruella's plan.

102 Dalmatians's script is by Kristen Buckley and Brian Regan, with assistance from Bob Tzudiker and Noni White, based on the original novel characters created by the late Dodie Smith. Like so much of Disney's live-action output, it relies heavily on formula and established character stereotypes, and it works in a very tried-and-true (read: boring) sort of way. Glenn Close steals the show, of course, to the point of eclipsing the film's dull-as-dishwater human protagonists; the dogs are cute, and there are some interesting visuals (such as one scene which features the whole of London covered in spots), but from the standpoint of originality, this film's got nothing to save the Mouse House from its already, um . . . spotty track record. ***½

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

See Current Reviews | See FilmQuips Archive