101 Dalmatians (1996)


101 Dalmatians

Well, another new Disney movie is coming out and with it comes the theaters packed with screaming babies, very restless kids kicking your seat, and throngs of grownups providing running commentary of everything on the screen (to themselves, not the kids).

This is not a good thing. This time, the Disney movie is 101 Dalmatians, the live-action version, and if any movie could make me long for a quick and painless death, this is it.

In an era when we get smart ‘children’s’ movies like Babe, why does dreck like this have to continue to be made? The new 101 Dalmatians goes like this: Roger (Jeff Daniels) is a video game designer in London (where all the best video game designers live, I’m sure), and Anita (Joely Richardson) is a fashion designer in the employ of one Cruella DeVil (Glenn Close). Roger and Anita both have Dalmatians, and the super-smart dogs conspire to get Roger and Anita together. He proposes marriage an hour after he meets her, they get hitched, the Dalmatians have puppies, and Cruella decides she wants them for a coat. Cruella steals the happy couple’s puppies plus a bunch more from other people. Dogs outwit baddies and escape, bringing down Cruella and her evil henchmen.

Well, la-dee-dah. This plot couldn’t be less interesting if it was written by Home Alone‘s John Hughes. Oh, wait a minute! It was written by John Hughes! Silly me!!! In fact, 101 Dalmatians is almost exactly the same movie as Home Alone. Point in fact: Kid/dogs in trouble; bad guys chase him/them; kid/dogs end(s) up being much more resourceful; bad guys fall down a lot. Oh, funny!

Maybe you’re saying, ‘Hey, this is a kid’s movie! Lighten up!’ Well, I don’t think it’s anywhere near being suitable for children, despite it’s G rating — there are blatant sex jokes, dead/dying animals, reactionary Puritanical attitudes (women should stay in the home), and downright destructive messages.

And this movie isn’t for adults, either, because this next brick in the wall of the Disney empire is so dumbed-down it ends up just rotting the audience’s brains. There’s never any sense of ‘thrill’ to this adventure, the acting is mundane, and I laughed at one single joke (‘Who gets the gold?’) But hey, this is Disney, and maybe brain rot is what they’re aiming for! (Because then you’ll pay to see next year’s animated Hercules, which, from the trailer, looks even worse.)

So what do we learn from 101 Dalmatians? That your dog is smarter than you? That if your dog saves someone else’s dog, you get to keep it? Who can say?

Hell, I’m a cat person, after all. So what do I know?

The 2008 DVD contains no new bonus features, so no need to upgrade if you already have a prior edition.

You see, these dogs really DID ruin the movie!