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102 Dalmatians

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: 102 Dalmatians

Starring: Glenn Close, Gerard Depardieu
Director: Kevin Lima
Rated: G
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: November 2000
Genre: Kids

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

Cruella De Vil is back with a new name -- "just call me Ella" -- and now she is a real sweetheart who is ready to lead protests against fur fashions. She is dogdom's number one friend. "What!" you say.

Did I forget to mention her treatment under Doctor Pavlov (David Horovitch) who has cured her of her evil ways? This is lucky for her since a judge (Timothy West) has sentenced her to give all of her money to the 2nd Chance dog shelter if she is ever caught dognapping again. Kevin (Ioan Gruffudd from SOLOMON AND GAENOR) runs the shelter, and he and Chloe (Alice Evans), Ella's probation officer, form the story's love interest. If you suspect that Ella will revert to her nefarious alter ego, you would, of course, be right.

Let me say upfront that for whatever reason, probably thanks to director Kevin Lima (TARZAN), 102 DALMATIANS is much better than it's immediate predecessor, 101 DALMATIANS. (Neither, however, is better than the animated original.) Glenn Close, having a ball chewing up the scenery, is terrific, but it's the dogs that make the show.

The best dog of the bunch has to be the eminently lovable Oddball. A Dalmatian who hasn't gotten his spots yet, he is obsessed with them. He suffers from such spot anxiety that Chloe has to spell out the word ("s-p-o-t") when she's around him. This lack of dots gives Oddball lots of opportunities to get into trouble trying to acquire them. The spilled ink from a photocopier's toner cartridge is just one such source of black splotches. Oddball is Mr. Mischief and the dog most likely to appear in the dog endangerment scenes that make the film's G rating a bit questionable. (There were several blood curdling screams from little tykes in our audience when it looked like Oddball was going to be a goner.)

Coming in second in the cuteness derby is a rottweiler named Waddlesworth. An unusual dog, he has colorful feathers and a beak, although he doesn't think he can fly. Actually, he's a talking Macaw (voiced by Eric Idle), who just thinks that he is a canine. Giving a single animal the ability of speech makes the story funny without being too silly.

Sometimes the simplest scenes of the dogs wagging their tails are so cute that you can't help but break into a big smile. And the sets and the costumes alone can provoke quite a few laughs.

Finally, there is Gérard Depardieu, as fur fashion designer Monsieur Le Pelt. Depardieu doesn't have much of a part, but he makes the most of it. Always pronouncing puppies as "poopies," he sounds like he just walked off the Rugrats set. When we first see him, he is parading his rotund body down a fashion show runway in leopard hot pants and a leopard-head crotch protector. 102 DALMATIANS is first and foremost a movie ripe with physical comedy. The dialog is treated as almost an afterthought.

So what video would a bunch of dogs want to watch when their master is on a date? Kevin's dogs go for LADY AND THE TRAMP. In one of the story's best sequences, the movie cuts between the video and Kevin and Chloe enjoying spaghetti just like Lady and the Tramp. The only disappointment is that they never share a single strand as they do in the video. On the whole, however, 102 DALMATIANS is a good spirited movie that rarely disappoints.

102 DALMATIANS runs 1:41. It is rated G, but the "poopie" endangerment scenes may scare some kids under 5.

My son Jeffrey, age 11, gave the film ***. He really liked Oddball and Waddlesworth, but complained that he missed the dogs from the first movie. Maxim, age 12, went wild over the picture and gave it ****. His favorite part was the cake scene. Nickolas, age 11, gave it *** 1/2, having similar comments to Jeffrey's. Eliot, age 11, on the other hand, hated the movie, giving it just * 1/2. He complained that it wasn't original and that it didn't link properly to the first film. The votes from the rest of Jeffrey's 6th grade class were quite positive although there were a few who didn't like it.

Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes

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