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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 Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

In his pan of the 1996 picture "101 Dalmatians," distinguished online critic James Berardinelli held that the movie "belongs in the dog house" because it's "unnecessary (the animated version is perfectly adequate)...with one overriding aim: to sucker parents into buying spotted paraphernalia for their children." If so, that original live version ironically runs counter to what could be its subtext: to warn children of the way the fur industry causes wholly unncessary suffering--cruelly trapping, killing (by stabbing or electrocution), and skinning an assortment of animals to please the taste of bourgeois clients. I missed "101" but had been told by an enthusiastic audience member that the picture nonetheless did convey an important anti-fur message, though I'm skeptical. Any animal rights intent may have been too subtle to be caught by the young. Morever, given the level of violence (however cartoonish) in the present film, "102 Dalmatians," I'd question the wisdom of the MPAA in granting the movie a "G" rating. Remember that this Disney work is not animated. Cruel things happen to person who, though moronic or vulnerable simply do not deserve the treatment they get. Kids are likely to leave the theater with the impression that a person can be pummeled like a pancake and then sit in an industrial bake oven with a probable temperature of about 450 degrees Fahrenheit, emerging as nothing more than the merely humiliated centerpiece of the confection.

Version one dealt with the devilish doings of the aptly named Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close), who uses her millions to capture five-score and one Dalmatian dogs to be fashioned into a fur coat--giving her 15 minutes of fame in the high- fashion industry for her creative imagination. Having served part of her sentence in a London jail, she enters "102" reportedly rehabilitated, thanks to the conditioning she received by a Skinnerian psychologist. Though her cynical but blandly attractive parole officer, Chloe (Alice Evans), is skeptical that a woman like Cruella can be cured, she has no choice other than to monitor the woman's behavior closely and toss her back into her cell should she regress into her fleecephile fantasy.

The one good feature of "102 Dalmatians" is Assheton Gorton's production design, which can at least educate the kids in the audience who think that the United States is the entire world that there is a timepiece known as Big Ben and an edifice called the Eiffel Tower that tourists to New York simply cannot see. Otherwise, director Kevin Lima, using a committee-drawn screenplay, shows his disdain for the five- to-nine-year-olds in the audience by thinking that they will sit transfixed while gazing at an idiotic servant, Alonso (Tim McInnerny), who is persistently used as a doormat by his grandiose employer (played over-the-top as expected by Ms. Close) and the goody-two-shoes Kevin (Ioan Gruffudd) who romances the pretty Chloe thinking that he has a chance to capture her attention when four-legged canines are her whole life. Gerard Depardieu was never before as wasted as he is in this one, driven to following Cruella's orders and repeatedly pronouncing the species of his captives with the francophone term "poopies."

Of course, since this is not an animated feature, we can't help being amazed at the skill of the trainers, Mark Forbes, Larry Madrid, and their assistants, who keep the pups and their parents romping merrily about--though the concept of a parrot who thinks he's a Rottweiler simply does not fly. I also get the impression (correct me if I'm wrong) that all the pups who are picked up by their humans are females lest something appear on the screen that could doom the "G" rating.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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