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101 Dalmatians - family and children's DVD / concert DVD review
(live action)
Rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 2 1/2 stars
Actors: Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Joan Plowright, Hugh Laurie, Mark Williams
Director: Stephen Herek   Distributor: Walt Disney Video
DVD release: 16 September 2008   Runtime: 103 min. (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
DVD features: Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (English CC), Fastplay, Theatrical Trailers, Additional titles, Sneak peeks

Roger (Jeff Daniels) is a video game designer. He has a lovable Dalmatian named Pongo who is his constant companion and friend. Anita (Joely Richardson) is a fashion designer for the eccentric Cruella Devil (Glenn Close), who tends to work with fur a lot. Maybe that's more acceptable in London, I don't know. Anita also has a Dalmatian named Perdy. Anita happens to create a design which Cruella loves: a dress made of Dalmatian fur. The chief problem with this is that Dalmatian fur is coarse... at least adult dalmatian fur is.

While out on a bike ride, Pongo sees Perdy and falls instantly in love. Anita and Roger happen to hit it off as well, which is good news for Pongo and Perdy. The humans - and apparently the dogs - get married, and we're led to believe that the dogs wait until after to consummate. The wise maid, Nanny (Joan Plowright), can instantly tell when Perdy's pregnant. Naturally, Cruella stops by and discovers this fact, as well as the fact that her best designer Anita is quitting.

Cruella demands the puppies, having a couple of flunkies peer into windows to discover that they've been born. As you can imagine, Cruella has these puppies taken, leaving Roger, Anita, Pongo and Perdy mortified.

The film differs from the cartoon on a few points, though the basic structure is similar. The dogs can't talk, although they seem able to understand one another's barks - indeed, the entire animal kingdom save humans can understand one another. The bit where the 99 puppies decide to escape from the bumbling cohorts (Hugh Laurie of House fame and Mark Williams from the Harry Potter series) plays out pretty much like the Home Alone films; in fact, the screenplay was written by John Hughes. The animals lure the baddies into the right areas to fall through the floor or into a giant open vat of black strap molasses. A bit far-fetched, but a pleasure for the kids.

Not a great film, but for children with an affinity for puppies and other animals, it may play well. Roger and Anita's attraction to each other isn't developed enough to be believable. If it were, it may turn off the kids, but getting engaged on the night they meet seems a bit fantastic. At least give us a two-minute montage of dates.

Glenn Close's Cruella is amazing. She's tapped into some vein of pure and insane evil and channels it onto the screen. Her performance is the best part of the experience, though I can't fully recommend this film.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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