MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Glenn Close as CRUELLA DE VIL
Gerard Depardieu as JEAN-PIERRE LE PELT
Ioan Gruffudd as KEVIN SHEPERD
Alice Evans as CHLOE SIMON
Tim McInnerny as ALONZO
Eric Idle as WADDLESWORTH
Directed by: Kevin Lima
BY KEVIN CARR
After the monster success of the live-action version of “101 Dalmatians,” the Disney studios planned a live-action sequel. This is not to be confused with the animated sequel of “101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure,” which has an entirely unrelated plot that focuses on a puppy rather than humans.
The ensemble brought together for “102 Dalmatians” is a step down from the previous film, but it still features Glenn Close in the pivotal role of Cruella De Vil. It begins in an asylum where Cruella has been placed following her failed attempt to kidnap the puppies in the previous film.
A psychiatrist believes he has rehabilitated Cruella, and she is released from confinement. She’s been given an aversion to fur and puppies, but the treatment doesn’t hold. She soon cracks and reverts to her old puppy-napping ways. This time, she’s targeting Pongo’s offspring in the hands of a Cruella’s probation officer (Alice Evans) and a well-meaning animal rescuer (played by a pre-Fantastic Ioan Gruffudd).
The dogs still don’t talk in this film, but a level of animal cuteness is brought into play with a talking macaw (voiced by ex-Python Eric Idle) who believes he’s a dog. There’s also a misfit Dalmatian named Oddball who is without spots, which utterly confuses and revolts Cruella.
The story of this film is a bit forced, trying to shoehorn the characters and plot into a similar theme. In this version, Cruella now wants to kidnap 102 dogs (instead of the previous 99) in order to make a coat with a fabulous hood. She enlists the help of a furrier name LePelt (Gerard Depardieu) and her driver Alonzo (Tim McInnerny), who both get a little squeamish about killing puppies.
Much of the same elements of slapstick and physical comedy fill this movie, and that helps save it. Having seen both films with my young sons, their favorite parts are when Cruella gets her comeuppance.
Like the previous live-action film, Glenn Close is the real star, making Cruella De Vil larger than life and even more obnoxious. She goes a bit too far in this movie, but it’s not terrible. She saves the movie with her level of acting quality, but not enough to warrant a “103 Dalmatians” flick.
The DVD comes with a large slate of special features that make up for the relatively scant bonus material on the re-release of the live-action “101 Dalmatians.” There’s a deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes faturettes, a “Puppy Action Download” musical montage, interactive visual effects and costume features, the theatrical trailer and an audio commentary track.
Finally, there’s a well-meaning warning to families about what to expect from a real Dalmatian puppy, and a suggestion to only get one if you’re ready to deal with a high-energy dog. I don’t know if this is going to suppress the uptick in Dalmatian breeding driven by these movies, but at least the studio is making an effort.