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101dalmatians.jpg (74735 bytes)
click for full sized poster

101 Dalmatians

Starring Glenn Close
Screenplay by John Hughes
Based on the novel by Dodie Smith
Directed by Stephen Herek

I'll try to make this as painless as possible.

If you have children under about ten years old or so, or if you have enjoyed the animated 101 Dalmatians in its video release, then you are going to have a fabulous time watching the live-action version, starring Glenn Close.

You will like it despite the clunky animatronics that look like model figures moving behind the glass in a museum somewhere. You'll like it despite the computer manipulations, the sole effect of which is to make you go "ah" and "ooh" a couple of dozen times. You will like it despite the fact that you've seen this movie before, whether from Disney or with MacCauley Culkin in the role(s) now filled by the dogs Perdy and Pongo. For 101 Dalmatians is no more than a variation on Home Alone.

Before y'all start snapping at me, please remember that I do not compare to the original -- indeed the animated 101 is one of the few Disneys I've never seen -- so it does no good to e-mail me and say that Home Alone is a variation on 101.

That being said, you may take comfort in the knowledge that somewhere on the left coast, a Warner Bros. executive is getting the ax for not getting Home Alone 3 to your local movie theater by now.

As I've written before, in reviews for other flicks that anthromorphize animals into pseudo-Humans, I am not going to be moved. It didn't happen in Leopard Son, it didn't happen in Babe, and it didn't happen here.

Which brings us to the human cast, all of whom are expendable, save one. Glenn Close's Cruella DeVil, a fashion designer out to make a coat from Dalmatian puppy fur, is all blazing eyeballs, jutting chin, and hard-edged profile, and it is a marvelously perfect piece of overacting.

The reason Glenn Close spent all that time starring as Norma Desmond on Broadway in Sunset Boulevard was so she could take all she learned about going over the top and then quadruple it here. It is the only possible way to work against 101 (well, 99 and two parents) fuzzy wuzzy cute as a bunny Dalmatian puppies. Devil employs two moron attendants and a mute taxidermist in the roles of See No, Hear No, and Speak No Evil, and sends them out to do her dirty work.

Their opposition is an animal underground consisting of dozens of assorted dogs, rabbits, horses, sheep, birds, pigs, and raccoons, all of whom know the secret animal language and join together to rescue kidnapped fuzzy wuzzy cute as a bunny Dalmatian puppies.

When all is said and done, the script by Home Alone creator John Hughes uses every sadistic and abusive trick in the book to punish the evil-doers and make you laugh. The punishment the kidnappers take is substantial. Individually or collectively they get turned into human ice statues, have taxidermied animal heads dropped on 'em, fall off houses, have their testicles electro-shocked, get stuck in a burning truck, skid across icy floors and out glass windows, and lots more fun stuff.

By the time Cruella gets her comeuppance, she's suffered a similar fate.

Those of you who have read more than a handful of these columns know that how I rate a film is tempered by what I see in the audience. The audience I sat with cheered. The kidlets kept yelling out "puppies!" The "oohs" and "aahs" came with nauseating regularity. They all knew every twist and turn of the animated feature, so much so that one person pointed out the material that wasn't included in the live action film.

Okay, folks. 'Tis time to sharpen your steely knives...

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to 101 Dalmatians, he would have paid . . .

$3.00

As I wrote up top, if you are predisposed to like this movie, then I'm way off base. But consider this: if you are predisposed to like this movie, then it is probably because of numerous playings of the video tape, which I can rent for a measly three bucks. When the live action video comes out, you'll buy it and watch it over and over again. As it was, so shall it ever be. End of review.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.