Just so you know, I’ve got opinions about 102 Dalmatians, but they’re not the opinions of somebody who knows anything.
This movie was made for children, and like most self-centered twentysomethings, I don’t know anything about children. I don’t know what they like, I don’t know what they want, I don’t know what they think is cool. As such, I probably shouldn’t be telling them what movies to see. I’m not the boss of them.
Personally, I tend to avoid children in my everyday life with an avidity most people reserve for avoiding unpaid parking tickets or televised baseball or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I sit as far away as possible from children in a restaurant, and I normally stay out of their movie theaters as long as they stay out of mine (though it seems like nearly every time you go to a show these days, no matter how adult the subject matter, there’s always a couple of yahoos in the front row—he’s wearing a Raiders jacket, and she’s got a dozen of those crappy plastic clips in her perm—who somehow thought it was a great idea to bring a 2-year-old and another baby in a stroller to the R-rated late show on a Saturday night. Can’t stand those people).
I don’t know kids, but I know retreads—and I’m not talking about foster children. A retread is what kids have been given in 102 Dalmatians, an unimaginatively plotted but dementedly art-directed sequel to the 1996 live-action version of the animated Disney original. In concept, it’s simply nothing more than a shamelessly lazy repackaging of the first film’s story line: once again, Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close, hammier than a bag of pork rinds) wants to dognap a bunch of adorable puppies and make them into a coat.
The film begins with Cruella apparently cured of her dogicidal tendencies from the first film and released on parole. She buys a bankrupt animal shelter from good-natured doofus Kevin (Ioan Gruffudd) and charms her parole officer (Alice Evans), who coincidentally owns five gorgeous Dalmatians, including the pup that proved Cruella’s undoing in the first film.
Cruella’s newfound compassion disappears for silly reasons, and she becomes even more intent to have her dream outfit of Dalmatian fur—this time with a hood, hence the necessity for one more puppy. Actually, the idea of fashion design as an essentially evil profession is an intriguing one which could be explored in greater detail someplace less silly than this.
Glenn is basically the world’s richest drag queen here, with a throaty laugh and a jawline that makes Joan Crawford seem like Donna Reed. But the outfits make the woman, and they’re fabulous. The look starts with her hair, which is half-black and half-white and gets tortured into all sorts of extravagant designs. Her outfits are vintage Liberace crossed with Queen Victoria and sewn by Donna Karan, all feathers and ruffles and spots and stuff you can’t even name. After a while, they start to look computer-animated in their complexity.
Aside from the spectacle of watching Close humiliate herself for a huge paycheck, there’s the spectacle of watching Gerard Depardieu humiliate himself for a slightly less huge paycheck. The respected, Oscar-nominated French actor plays Le Pelt, a fur designer who favors a blond hockey-player-meets-punk-rocker haircut, an obscenely brief pair of shorts and a leopard’s head for a codpiece. Between the two of them, we might as well be on Castro Street for Halloween.
Aside from the sadly weak story, there’s also way too much Disney merchandising synergy here, with the puppies spending a night watching Lady & the Tramp on video. Michael Eisner ought to be ashamed of himself, if only he were capable of such an emotion. Everything simply feels too manufactured for adult tastes, with none of the wit of Toy Story or the spontaneous glee of The Grinch.
Of course, kids may eat all this up with a Dalmatians collectible spoon from McDonald’s. Disney is quite obviously of the opinion that kids will watch whatever you put in front of them—and that’s a company that knows a bit more about kids than me.
102 Dalmatians (G) HH Directed by Kevin Lima. Starring Glenn Close, Gerard Depardieu and Alice Evans.