102 Dalmatians

Directed by Kevin Lima
Starring: Glenn Close, Gérard Depardieu, Alice Evans, Ioan Gruffudd, Tony Robinson, and the voice of Eric Idle.
MPAA Rating: G

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
November 24, 2000

Few films have been more unnecessary than Disney's live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians. Actually, outside of Gus Van Sant's Psycho, I can't really think of any. On this point alone, I didn't like the first film, even though there were plenty of other reasons to dislike it. Now, in an attempt to dominate Thanksgiving weekend, Disney has released a live-action sequel. For this film, I could go in without prejudice and see if it has anything resembling a purpose.

Only Glenn Close returns as the iconic villain Cruella DeVil. After rehabilitation at Dr. Pavlov's animal hospital, Cruella has learned to love dogs, and has been granted parole. Her parole officer is Chloe (Alice Evans), who is the current owner of Dipstick, one of the original 99 Dalmatians that Cruella had kidnapped and nearly killed. Naturally, she is suspicious of her intentions when she wants to fund and manage a dog shelter. Cruella's parole terms, however, stipulate that if she is arrested for any sort of dog-napping or illegal fur trading, her entire £8 million fortune will go to all the dog shelters in the borough.

It turns out that the only dog shelter in the borough is the one she has volunteered to support: 2nd Chance Shelter, run by the kind-hearted but naïve Kevin (Ioan Griffudd). Her intentions are good until her therapy is reversed by hearing the chimes of Big Ben, which happens to be right outside Chloe's office. Now, she plans to use Kevin as a patsy in a scheme to finally make her Dalmatian coat with the help of Paris furrier Jean Pierre Le Pelt (Gérard Depardieu). She also wants to add a hood, which would require three more Dalmatians. So, 102 in all, in case you have trouble adding.

Actually, most of the audience for this film would have trouble adding. This is definitely a film for very young kids that is merely tolerable for adult audiences. Without the legacy of an animated feature, 102 Dalmatians is able to come into its own, somewhat. It gets a lot of mileage out of the cuteness of the puppies, and a subplot about one of Dipstick's brood -- Oddball, the spotless Dalmatian puppy.

While the film was still rather weak, I did enjoy seeing Close and Depardieu hamming it up for the kids. It's very rare to see two so highly-respected actors in such a film. They at least seemed to have fun, and I was willing to go along with a good deal of it.

What is interesting about this film -- and the timing of its release -- is how much more grounded in reality it is than Disney's other release for Thanksgiving (and the only other new wide-release film for this weekend), Unbreakable. I was more willing to believe in Big Ben's bells' psychotropic powers than in Samuel L. Jackson's character.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
102 Dalmatians (2000)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
102 Dalmatians (2000) -- VHS
102 Dalmatians (2000) -- DVD Pan&Scan
102 Dalmatians (2000) -- DVD Widescreen
101 Dalmatians (1996) & 102 Dalmatians (2000) - 2 Pack -- DVD Widescreen
102 Dalmatians, a screenplay novelization by Alice Downes -- Paperback
Disney's 102 Dalmatians: Where's Oddball?, by Judy Katschke -- Paperback
102 Dalmatians: The Power of Pups, a coloring book from Golden Books -- Paperback
Disney's 102 Dalmatians: A Read-Aloud Storybook, by Zoe Benjamin -- Hardcover
102 Dalmatians: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc
102 Dalmatians -- CD Read-Along
102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue -- Game for Sega Dreamcast
102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue -- Game for Sony PlayStation

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan