101 Dalmatians (1996)

Tragic, perhaps, the fate that befalls the Disney 'toon.  In recent 
years, our most-beloved family features have been transformed into 
Saturday morning cartoons (THE LION KING), sequelized in made-for-
video movies (ALADDIN), and, even, staged on Broadway as fully-
functioning musical productions (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST).  Is anyone  
really surprised, then, by a live-action remake of ONE HUNDRED AND 
ONE DALMATIANS?  Talk about future marketing strategy!  Just pick 
any ol' classic in Walt's vaults, re-release it into theaters, then 
re-release it on video, and then remake it as a big-budget "event 
picture."  Throw in a boatload of licensed products, a video re-
lease for the remake, and a subsequent airing on ABC/Disney, and 
you've made millions.  If not billions.  Repeat every five years-- 
duh, to cash in on the current crop of toddlers-- and another four-
way stock split before the end of the decade is guaranteed.  Just 
like that.

Happily, the sound of ringing registers is but a soft echo in this 
exceptionally warm and fuzzy (furry?) remake.  Jeff Daniels and 
Joely Richardson have a wonderful chemistry as the London dog 
owners who fall in love after their Dalmatians do.  (Though I had 
to think twice if I was watching the guy who played the President 
in INDEPENDENCE DAY.  No, that was Bill Pullman.)  They're also a 
world more interesting than Glenn Close, whose narrow performance 
as Cruella De Vil is the year's most overrated.  (Blame the script.  
As written, she's less a cruel villain than a campy eccentric.)  
Most impressive are the technical credits, from art direction to 
animal handling to location photography.  Some of the best product-
ion work of the year is on display.  

Too bad that the script, by John Hughes, doesn't let the dogs talk.  
Several later sequences of inter-breed interaction are particularly 
tiresome.  (Woof.  Cut to dog barking.  Woof.  Cut to other dog 
listening.  Woof.  Cut to first dog running in direction of second 
dog.  Repeat several times.)  Another major problem of the script 
is Hughes' overabundance of violent physical humor.  Okay, I laugh-
ed at the bumbling bad guys (Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams, both 
nicely underplaying) getting their 'nads fried on an electric 
fence, but this movie really deserves something more than the unin-
tended alternate title of HOME ALONE 3: SEEING SPOTS.  I don't even 
know if I can recommend this to young kids, as they'd probably fall 
asleep somewhere in the middle.  (Rated "G"/103 min.)

Grade: B-

Copyright 1996 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies as 101 Cross-Promotions

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