101 Dalmatians (1996) starring Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Joan Plowright, Hugh Laurie, Mark Williams, Tim McInnerny directed by Stephen Herek Movie Review

101 Dalmatians (1996)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmations

Cute, Canine Caper's get Close

After an accidental meeting in the park, computer-game designer Roger (Jeff Daniels) and fashion designer Anita (Joely Richardson) fall in love as do their dogs, Dalmatians Pongo and Perdita. Before long they are married with a baby on its way, and it's not just Anita who is expecting as so is Perdita. But what should be a time of happiness is spoilt by Anita's boss Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close - Fatal Attraction) who has a thing for real fur and in her quest for a coat made from Dalmatian fur arranges for her henchmen to kidnap the puppies. But no one accounted for Pongo and Perdita who go to the rescue.

Cutesy with a cartoonish dark side is probably the best way to describe the 1996 live action reworking of Disney's "101 Dalmatians", starring Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson and the wonderfully over the top Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil. From the opening scenes which sees Roger's Dalmatian Pongo wake him up whilst switching on the coffee, PC and getting the paper from the doorstep through to the meet cute between Roger and Anita plus of course there dogs it is all so very cutesy, even fairytale like with the immediate wedding of these two acquaintances. But then it is in one sense perfectly cutesy because fore mostly this is a movie for children, who will enjoy all the sappiness and not care too hoots if it's all a bit too fairytale like. It will even appeal to those willing to get carried away on the awe factor of the adorable dogs, puppies and their exploits fuelled by the talented dogs who obey their trainer's commands to deliver some fun doggy powered scenes.

Jeff Daniels and Joely Richardson in 101 Dalmations

Whilst all the cutesy stuff is going on there is also the cartoonish dark side fuelled by Cruella De Vil along with various henchman's who epitomize the comic low level robbers you would associate with a children's movie, think Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern from "Home Alone" and you will get the idea of the sort of slightly inept buffoons I'm on about. It certainly is a very comical dark side and although Glenn Close does a wonderful job of camping up Cruella as an evil woman it never feels sinister or really foreboding. This again is perfect for this sort of movie, heck we don’t want real bad guys that will scare little children or else they won’t watch it.

But whilst you have the cutesy and cartoonish villainy there is a certain something missing from this live action retelling, the Disney magic and charm which took you off into a wonderfully imaginative world where dogs had character. Yes the intro and all the clever dogs are magical but not in the same sense and so it often feels a little flat. Instead we get a canine caper in line with the aforementioned "Home Alone" which considering John Hughes wrote the script for "101 Dalmatians" is not really a shock. In many ways it works and again children will gain pleasure from all the Dalmatian shenanigans although for those who have watched "Home Alone" and various rip-offs will grow a little tired of some pretty predictable slapstick.

Although "101 Dalmatians" features many recognizable faces such as Jeff Daniels as Roger, Joely Richardson as Anita as well as Hugh Laurie, Mark Williams, Joan Plowright and Tim McInnerny they are but faces adding nothing really memorable to movie. On the other hand you have Glenn Close who appears to have great fun playing the over the top villain Cruella De Vil. It is very much Close's performance which sticks in your mind delivering between a cartoon Dick Dastardly style villain and one more often scene in Pantomimes with the over the top excesses to make it humorous yet also dark.

But the real stars on "101 Dalmatians" are the numerous well trained canines who appear through out delivering those cutesy, comical scenes which stick in your memory longer than anything else does. Even the most hardened of people will find it difficult not to feel the awe factor especially over the initial meeting of Pongo and Perdita, even if the rest of the movie at times feels over cutesy and contrived.

What this all boils down to is that "101 Dalmatians" is to be honest excessively cutesy trading on the clever canines to obtain the awe factor. But then it is a children's movie and as such the integrity of the storyline, believability and various other factors don't really come into play as it takes you on a journey of doggy antics to rival those in "Home Alone". Is it better than the animated Disney original, I don't think so because for me it lacks that little bit of magic but it is what it is an entertaining children's movie which will keep their fidgeting bottoms glued to their seats with all the doggy shenanigans.

Tags: Dog Movies