Pros:Entertaining version of a well know story. Glenn Close.
Cons:Could be too silly for some people.
The Bottom Line: 101 Dalmatians was a fun, entertaining movie with a wonderful evil villain. Fans of the original animated movie should give this one a chance.
In 1996, Disney did something a little different by making a live action version of one of their animated movies, 101 Dalmatians. The 1996 version of 101 Dalmatians was just as entertaining as the original and is worth watching for people who enjoyed the original movie.
Roger was a video game designer who lived with his dalmatian Pongo. Anita, who also had a dalmatian, worked for fashion designer Cruella De Vil. Anita used Perdy, her dalmatian, as inspiration for a new design that Cruella loved and talked about making it out of fur. Soon after that, Roger and Anita met with some help from Pongo. Roger and Anita were married, which worked out well for Pongo and Perdy since they had fallen in love as well.
Cruella turned up after Perdy had fifteen puppies wanting to buy them and was furious when Roger and Anita refused. Cruella was still dreaming of her spotted outfit, so she had Horace and Jasper stealing puppies around London. When their puppies were taken and the police didn't seem to have any leads, Pongo and Perdy set out to find them with help from other animals.
101 Dalmatians was based on the 1961 animated movie which was based on the book by Dodie Smith. I still haven't read the book, so I don't know what would have been changed for sure. The main plot was the same as the one used for the animated movie, though a few things were handled differently. Cruella was still obsessed with fur and went to extreme lengths to try to get spotted fur. In this movie, Cruella was a fashion designer and Anita worked for her instead of the two women being old friends. As far as I can remember, a profession for Cruella wasn't mentioned in the animated movie. The lengths she was willing to go to for her fur obsession was explored a bit more and another character who helped her with that was introduced. That was tied in to a small subplot that fit in very well with the main plot.
Since there weren't any major changes to the story, certain aspects of 101 Dalmatians were predictable. That didn't bother me since the story was so entertaining. Some of the scenes were done very much like they had been in the animated movie while others had some small differences. Several lines from the animated movie ended up being used again, especially some of Cruella's more well known lines. The live action version was longer because of the addition of new scenes, some of which added a surprise or two.
The story for 101 Dalmatians really didn't have any mystery to it, especially for anyone who has already seen the animated version. I don't think there would be much mystery for people for haven't seen the animated movie yet since it was made very clear what Cruella was planning and that she was behind the disappearance of the puppies. I thought that the movie was still very entertaining. There were a few new sequences that were used, which helped to add some new things to what was going on. I was unsure exactly how certain things were going to work out in those new sequences.
I like both versions of 101 Dalmatians, but I do think that there are disturbing elements to the story, mostly connected to Cruella. Her plan to turn puppies into a coat in the animated movie always bothered me and it still does. I just happen to find that idea very disturbing. That aspect of the movie, as well as Cruella being scary, might upset younger children. In this movie, a little more about Cruella and her obsession with fur was shared. When she decided that she wanted a garment out of a particular type of fur, she wouldn't let anything stand her in way. It was made clear that Cruella loved fur in the animated movie but there wasn't any indication that she had gone to such extreme measures for a specific type of fur before going after the puppies. The live action version of the movie showed that she had a history of doing that. That fit in with the character well and even made her seem more evil than she had been in the animated movie.
Unlike some of the other live action movies featuring animals, nothing was done to make it seem like the various animals were talking like humans in 101 Dalmatians. I have seen several movies featuring animals that had them talking to each other. In this movie, the animals did seem to communicate with each other through barking or something like that. The fact that the animals weren't talking like people, helped to make certain things more realistic. Other things that some of the animals did weren't as believable or realistic. Pongo and Perdy had the same names while some of their puppies ended up with different names. I don't remember hearing the names of all fifteen puppies, so some of the names other than Lucky might have been the same.
Overall, the casting for 101 Dalmatians was very good. The human characters were basically the same as they were in the animated movie. Roger was still a very nice guy, though he was a video game designer instead of a song writer. Jeff Daniels did well with the part. Anita worked as a designer for Cruella before getting married. It did look like she decided to quit after getting married. She was a kind woman who was horrified by what Cruella was up to. Joely Richardson also handled the part the well. She and Daniels made a believable newly married couple. Joan Plowright was very good as Nanny, a woman who had worked for Anita's family and was now working for Roger and Anita.
Cruella De Vil was a fashion designer obsessed with fur. She loved fur garments above all else and would do anything to get a specific type of fur. She thought nothing of the animals she wanted the fur from. She was a pure evil character and she has been considered one of the best Disney villains ever. Glenn Close was wonderful in the part. She probably did go a bit over the top at times, but it worked for the movie and what was going on. Close was delightfully evil and made the character scary at times. She was a wonderful villain.
Horace and Jasper were the two bumbling idiots working as Cruella's flunkies. They did a lot of her dirty work and tended to mess up in some way. Neither of them were overly intelligent, which was probably why they ended up working for her to begin with. Jasper did seem to be slightly smarter and was bossing Horace around at times. Hugh Laurie was really good in the part. I also liked Mark Williams, who has recently been in the Harry Potter movies as Arthur Weasley, as Horace. Skinner was a character created just for this movie. He never spoke because of an injury and was very creepy. John Shrapnel was fine in the part.
Glenn Close - Cruella De Vil
Jeff Daniels - Roger
Hugh Laurie - Jasper
Joan Plowright - Nanny
Joely Richardson - Anita
John Shrapnel - Skinner
Mark Williams - Horace
Stephen Herek - Director
101 Dalmatians has been released on DVD a few times. I picked up the recent DVD release that came out on July 8, 2008. The disc has the widescreen version of the movie and no extras other than trailers for other Disney movies.
101 Dalmatians was a fun, entertaining movie that is worth watching. It is mostly family friendly, though certain things connected to the story could be upsetting or disturbing to younger children.
This review is part of CaptainD's 2008 Good Movie Write Off and Carstairs's 80 Years of Mickey Mouse Write Off.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up Ages 8