101 Dalmations (U)

Directed by Stephen Herek

Starring Glen Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson

Disney's phenomenally successful cartoon of Dodie Smith's book is remade with real people, and more importantly, real dogs! The story remains familiar though, with a few updates for the 90s. Daniels and Richardson are the youung married couple Anita and Roger who meet after their dogs fall in love. Before you know it both Anita and Perdita are expecting. Soon the patter of tiny paws is heard as Perdy has 15 little dots. However, Anita's employer Cruella De Vil(Close) has a fondness for fur, and decides that spots are this years fashion. When Roger and Anita refuse to sell the pups to her, she dispatches a couple of goons(Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams) to get these and and 84 others(plus 15 plus 2 for Pongo and Perdita gives 101).
There are four notable features of this film;
Firstly, the positively cartoonish performance of Close. She is as close to the original cartoon Cruella as a human can get. Close is wonderfully bitchy although she flirts with danger at times being almost TOO dastardly and over the top. English accent flawless of course.
Secondly, the production design of Cruella's fashion house and her outfits are stunningly good. Wierd and wonderful furniture, striking use of black and white.
Thirdly, the adorable dalmations. There has been a bit of a backlash against these spotty dogs saying they are very highly strung, and hard to train. Many are deaf due to a genetic defect in the breed. However, the adult dogs are very well trained and act perfectly, whilst the puppies are dangerously cute. The film was preceded with a reminder that a puppy is for life etc etc, and I hope there isn't a rush in reckless sales after seeing these sweeties.
Fourthly, the geographical inaccuracies of Hollywood England. Skunks and racoons help save the day here. Strange for species that don't live here.
Whilst this film has these things going for ir, well, the first three anyway, it is not going to remembered as fondly as the cartoon I think. The script was co-written by John Hughes, and this is more Home Alone than Disney. The violence towards the crooks, and the repeated dunkings of Cruella in goo after goo is repetitive and childish. The same gag is used to get both Richarson and Daniels wet aswell. Both are pulled into the pond after their dog tied to the handlebars of a bike runs after the other. Funny when Daniels did it, why did the same thing have to happen to Richarson? Couldn't the director/writer think of anything else?
There are several images taken directly from the cartoon, chiefly involving Cruella. The sight of Cruella driving fast with a cigarette holder clamped between her teeth is common to both films. However, what this remake lacks is any of the charm of the original cartoon. It is competant but a bit dull, and has no magic.
I am sure it will do well, and Glen Close is memorable and has about 2 funny lines, but it isn't a spot on the classic cartoon. 6/10.

December 1996

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