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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Dogs > 101 Dalmatians (Live Action) + 102 Dalmatians (Live Action) + 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure – Special Edition (Disney DVDs)

101 Dalmatians (Live Action) + 102 Dalmatians (Live Action) + 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure – Special Edition (Disney DVDs)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: D/D/C     Films: C+/C/C



The transition from animated feature to live-action film has never been an easy feat.  With so many failed video game too film conversions and sad attempts at making classic cartoons like The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo into passable “real life” achievements, the thought of Disney classics becoming sufficient live-action accomplishments is almost unforeseeable.  In 1996 Disney attempted to make one of their most beloved classics into a “real life” story, with 101 Dalmatians.  35 years after the original classic hit screens Disney used the talents of Glenn Close (playing Cruella De Vil), Jeff Daniels (playing Roger), and a cast of many, many real Dalmatians to bring the dream to life.  It is sad to say, however, that the ‘dream’ (though a financial success) turned out to be a bit of a nightmare.


The plot of 101 Dalmatians (Live-Action) follows a similar path to that of the original 1961 animated film; the film starting in present day London with computer game designer Roger (Jeff Daniels) and his Dalmatian Pongo living a simple life, until one fateful day the pair go walking through the park and find the loves of their lives’ when they meet Anita Campbell-Green (Joely Richardson) and her Dalmatian Perdy.  A little while later Roger and Anita get married and life seems to be pure bliss.  Anita works for extreme fashion designer and fur connoisseur, Cruella De Vil.  After Anita creates a design for a spotted fur coat (inspired by her love for her dogs), Cruella becomes obsessed with making the coat a reality and Cruella De Vil’s reality is a coat made of all Dalmatian fur.  De Vil hires a duo of absent minded misfits named Horace and Jasper to round her up enough Dalmatian puppies to make the coat.  Just as Cruella thinks her puppy coat is in the bag, she ends up a few puppies short; but by a stroke of luck (at least in Cruella’s book) Roger and Anita’s dog Perdy has a litter of 15 Dalmatian puppies.  Cruella swoops in to buy up all the puppies, but Roger and Anita absolutely refuse; putting Cruella into a wild state of rage and ends up firing Anita on the spot.  In her hysterical rage, Cruella puts the plan into motion for Jasper and Horace to steal the puppies and finish her dastardly evil coat.  After the puppies are kidnapped and taken to the ancient De Vil estate in London’s countryside, a taxidermist named Mr. Skinner is brought into to finish the job.  But with the love of their owners, help of their doggy parents, and the cunning of a few hundred furred and feathered friends throughout London the puppies may just stand a chance of getting home again.  Escaping the dangers of the De Vil estate and the pure insanity of Cruella herself couldn’t be done by one puppy alone, but maybe 101 will do the trick.


After the financial success of 101 Dalmatians (Live-Action) in 2000 Disney opted to throw their bone back into the ring with a doggy sequel entitled 102 Dalmatians.  102 Dalmatians picks up a few years after the previous film with Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close) now ‘rehabilitated’ from her fur/puppy obsession.  Cruella is released from her incarceration with the understanding that if she ever harms a creature again she will be locked up and all of her fortune will be donated to a Dog Shelter.  The film follows a similar path as the first feature with De Vil at first seeming to have completely recovered, throwing out all her furs; but not after long the sound of Big Ben’s bell twists Cruella’s already warped mind back to her puppy spotted coat lusting self.  The film then follows a Dalmatian named Dipstick (one of the puppies from the first film; now grown) as he attempts to save his puppies, amongst others, from the clutches of Cruella’s fashion endeavors.  In the end, the film finishes just as the first had with Cruella defeated and the puppies saving the day once again.


The third and final puppy-centric film under review here is an animated feature entitled 101 Dalmatians II: Patches London Adventure – Special Edition.  The direct-to-video sequel to the 1961 classic was released in 2003 and received more praise than most Disney sequels (especially those that are straight to video).  The animated film features the voice talents of Barry Bostwick, Jason Alexander, and Martin Short; and in terms of direct-to-video sequels the animation is nicely done with a solid talented cast.  The simple plot has more of a Saturday morning cartoon feel than a feature film, when Patch (one of the 99 puppies) gets left behind when Roger and Anita move the canine family to London’s countryside to a Dalmatian Plantation.  Patch’s obsession with a TV doggy hero, a German Shepard named Thunderbolt, makes him the perfect guide to city heroics when Thunderbolt (fearing getting fired from his show) sets out to become a real hero in London.  Also in this animated feature Cruella De Vil returns, obsessed with puppies and fur coats as ever, and sets out to once again make the perfect fur coat a reality.  With the help of her moronic crooks Jasper and Horace, Cruella sets out to capture the sly pups that thwarted her once, but she swears will never happen again.  Meanwhile, Patch and Thunderbolt make their may through the city and have a run in with Cruella herself; as do the other puppies.  Thunderbolt figures it is now or never to prove himself, and the puppies may need Thunderbolt to strike Cruella where it hurts.


After being over inundated by puppy power, this reviewer can say that the best incarnation of 101 Dalmatians is the 1961 classic and all sequels and reimaginings don’t hold a puppy’s hair worth of the creativity, musical ambition, or art direction that the original holds.  The live-action and its unnecessary sequel were only held together by the talents of Glenn Close and a lot of money.  The story was essentially the same as the animated classic, but stripped out the talking pups and watered down the story to a cliff-note of its former self; though it is oddly longer in time.  There is not much to criticize the films for, but there is even less to praise.  The animated feature used the Dalmatians to push the story along, but with the absence of the animals talking the plot was sluggishly dragged along by the humans; who are much less likable than the puppies.  The films have moments of shameless promotion and physical comedy that will mostly only amuse small children, as it does a lackluster job of being a weakened Home Alone “hit-em on the head” film.  The puppies no longer have unique personalities or contribute to the film, besides the fact that they are extremely cute.  In the end, the live-action films don’t add anything that the original didn’t already do almost 50 years ago, but they do manage to strip away certain elements that did make the original fantastic.  If it wasn’t for the fact that little kids love puppies (me too) and Glenn Close is a great, versatile actress the films would be a complete loss.


The direct-to-video 101 Dalmatians’ sequel left this reviewer just as unfulfilled as the live-action films, lacking the heart and soul of the original, but using what its predecessor established to make a quick buck.  101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure- Special Edition, as previously stated, just never feels like a feature film (mainly because it isn’t) and that being obvious detracts from the animated venture from the very beginning.  It is obvious that Disney makes these sequels solely for children and no one else; with that art direction, music creativity, and depth go right out the window.  Children will absolutely love this film, maybe even putting it on repeat; it has puppies for dog’s sake!  Fun, cute, and colorful, but void of most forms of deeper creativity; parents and fellow adults beware, this feature is for the kiddies.


The technical features on all three of these doggy dog films are about the same and slide by as simply standard.  The picture on both 101 and 102 Dalmatian live-action films is presented in a 2.35 X 1 Anamorphic Widescreen that demonstrates a rich black and white presentation and natural colors that are great, but could be brighter.  The image overall is a crisp and clean transfer with no spots to bog down the viewing experience.  The sound on the films is a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround that never quite takes the presentation to the next level, having a weak bass track and never using the speakers to their fullest.  The lack of ambient noise detracts from this animal infused film, where every bark, squeak, and meow matters.


The image on 101 Dalmatians: Patch’s London Adventure- Special Edition is presented in a 1.66 X 1 Widescreen that has a mostly crisp image and solid colors, though they are no where near as bright and clean as they could be; the word dull comes to mind.  The sound, though a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track, projects mainly from the front and falls flat much of the time as it never utilizes the rear speakers; which brings up the question, why abandon the DTS track from the previous release?

The extras on 101 and 102 Dalmatians (Live-Action) are absent with the exception of a plethora of unnecessary Disney trailers.  The extras on 101 Dalmatians: Patch’s London Adventure- Special Edition are a bit more extensive, but only mildly more exciting.  There are a few music videos, Thunderbolt: An Inside Look featurette, Patch’s Twilight Adventure Game, Lost in London Game, and Behind the Scenes Dog-umentary that brings in live dogs to tell kids how animation is done.  The extras are very kid centered and though not too entertaining to adults, they are in no way just slapped on as filler as kids will certainly enjoy the games and up-beat videos.


I could watch a 101 incarnations of those loveable Dalmatians and none of them would ever compare to the original.  There is just something about Disney classics that shouldn’t be touched; that goes for even newer Disney/Pixar classics.  Whereas the effort is admirable and certainly a great deal of work went into these features; they just simply don’t have the heart or paws to recreate what the original gave the world.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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