by Del Harvey
Release the hounds!
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As a little boy I loved Walt Disney’s original classic animated feature, 101 Dalmatians. What a sap of a kid I must have been. Any capitalistic, red-blooded American will tell you it’s not a sweet heart and a soft soul that made this country strong; it was greed, greed, greed! And, just to prove it, Cruella (Glenn Close) and the Dawgs are back to collect more booty from the holiday boxoffice.
Apparently, Cruella’s been doing a little time. I have never seen 1996’s live-action version of 101 Dalmatians, but that shouldn’t matter. Especially if they copied the story from the original. Sure enough, it really doesn’t matter. The dogs are all there—adults Pongo and Perdy (Perdita in the original), and the new onslaught of young ‘uns guaranteed to get the current crop of little boys and girls all a’twitter over spotted dogs and merchandise all over again. Dipstick, Dottie, Domino, Little Dipper, Oddball are chief among them. Also in the cast are a Bullmastiff, a Border Terrier, a Chinese Crested dog, and a Macaw who thinks he’s a dog. He just isn’t sure what kind.
Yes, everything is adroitly geared towards tugging the heartstrings and enticing your wallets from their precious spots upon the hip or within the purse. Story? Well, yes, there is one. Hmmm. What was it? OH, yes. Cruella has been converted. She no longer wants doggie pelts or animal pelts of any kind. In fact, she’s been converted so much so that she?s now the defender of animal rights everywhere, across the nation and around the globe. Sure, I’ll believe that. For about…two seconds. Then, true to her nature, the evil, dark, truly scary thing that she is creeps out of the shadows like that dim memory of my youth. And there she stands?one ugly b——-. Well, we can?t say that in a family-oriented review.
She’s got a new helper this time out. The truly remarkable Gerard Depardieu as Jean Pierre LePelt. Together they “team up to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting canine world,” as the press kit so aptly puts it. And Mr. Depardieu is very, very funny in his role. In fact, it’s another of his recent roles that I actually like. He seems to be taking himself less seriously these days, and that is a huge plus.
Okay, so I sound cynical, snide, and downright condescending. Do I need to? No. Is the film good? The answer is a resounding yes. This is another good family film that really is perfect for the holidays. Hey, what can I say? I love the dogs, it’s true. But looking at it with even my most jaundiced eye, I still can’t help myself.
Take the kids, take the grandparents, go see the film this holiday season. It’s fun, it’s amusing, it’s a good tug at the heartstrings.
Bow wow wow.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly and lives in Chicago. He is a survivor of Lucasfilm, the Walt Disney Company, and the Directors Guild of America.
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