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DVD Review: 102 Dalmatians


The live-action version of 101 Dalmatians was really well done. The casting was spot-on, the sets and costumes seemed realistic while somehow the overall tone of the film just felt like it was a cartoon come to life, and the story kept close to the classic tale from the earlier Disney animated film that we've all come to enjoy. Naturally, then, a sequel would be made, bringing everything that was great with the first film along with it. Well... not quite. A sequel was made, but it doesn't come close to matching likability of the first film. Aside from Glen Close reprising her role as Cruella De Vil, none of the original cast or characters return, the characters they do have lack any sort of charm, the story is silly and weak, and for some reason they even decided to include a talking animal in this one.

The story takes place about three years after the end of the first. Cruella is in prison, though rather than being a standard prison, it's some kind of lab where a mad scientist is trying to change behavior using a combination of electroshock therapy and something else I can't remember. But apparently it works, because they show a bunch of prison cells, each containing two animals that usually go after each other, but now living peacefully with one another. And Cruella... she's in a cell with a bunch of puppies, and loving every moment of it. Thus, her parole is approved, under the condition that her entire fortune will go to benefit dogs should she resume her old ways of stealing dogs.

It really does seem like she's a changed woman, as once back at her mansion, she freaks when she sees all her furs and has her servant Alonzo get rid of them all forever. And by forever, she obviously means put them in an easily accessible secret room, not destroy them. That would just be silly. Oh, and she also starts calling herself "Ella" instead of Cruella, since it doesn't sound as evil. At any rate, now it's time for her to get a new job as part of her parole, so she heads on over to her parole offer, a pretty, single woman named Chloe.

Chloe is the female protagonist of the film. She owns Dipstick, one of the pups from the original movie who is now grown up and has three pups of his own with Chloe's other Dalmatian, Dottie. She knows all about Cruella and what she tried to do, so it's no surprise that she has strong feelings about this woman. Too bad she doesn't show it more, as that would have made for more interesting interactions between the two. At any rate, Cruella sees a photograph on Chloe's desk of a dog shelter, and decides that is where she is going to work. Seeing as how the place is in major trouble financially, the dude who runs the place, Kevin Shepard, welcomes her with open arms. He believes everyone deserves a second chance (hence the name of the dog shelter, Second Chance).

Remember how I mentioned earlier about a talking animal? Well, this is where we find it. Kevin has a parrot named Waddlesworth that thinks he is a dog. And this parrot talks. I mean, it really talks, it doesn't just repeat phrases that it learned, it actually talks as if it has cognitive though and human intelligence. I guess they just thought hey, this movie isn't silly enough yet... what else can we do to make it uber silly? You wanna know what else is silly? The clanging sound that Big Ben relaters brainwaves in such a way that completely undoes all of the programming that the mad scientist. I guess they needed someway to turn Cruella evil again, and every other method just wasn't silly enough.

So now that Cruella's back to her old self, she decides to go after making that Dalmatian coat again... even though the last time it ended up with her defeat, humiliation, and imprisonment, and this time failure could lead to the loss of her entire fortune... but yeah, it's totally worth it for a coat. I mean, you gotta keep warm somehow, don't ya? Since the taxidermist from the first movie is now in prison, she has to find someone new to cut up the pups once she steals them. Gerard Depardieu steps into this role as Jean-Pierre LePelt, a furrier (whatever that is... apparently a guy who loves fur?) who brings even more silliness to the movie.

I could go on, but I really don't wanna. I'll just say there is a very flat romance, more stolen puppies, and a showdown at some industrial bakery or something where Cruella gets her comeupins. Of course, staying in the tradition of the film, it's in a manner that's way more silly than the previous movie. But by that point, no one would really expect anything different. There is one plus with this DVD release, though... there are actually some bonus features. There's one deleted scene, three behind the scenes featurettes, an audio commentary, something called "Puppy Action Overload" which features puppy auditions and outtakes, and a few other things that most people won't care about. Why didn't the put this kind of stuff on the first film's DVD? Anyway, kids may like this, but I doubt most anyone else would.

102 Dalmatians, released by Walt Disney Video, is available starting September 16, 2008.

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