The Buzz: ‘101 Dalmatians’ devalues classic

by Amy Borer

For weeks, no actually months, the Walt Disney Company has assaulted audiences everywhere with a tremendous hype for their newest film, a live-action version of the classic and beloved “101 Dalmatians.” Whether the promotions be commercials on television and radio, toys at McDonalds or displays at local department stores, there is no escaping those darn spotted puppies.

Apparently all the hype was not in vain, as the film opened to ticket sales of a record $46 million Thanksgiving weekend. Even so, “101 Dalmatians” leaves something to be desired, and it’s not cute puppy merchandise.

Written and produced by John Hughes, the film remakes the classic Disney cartoon, which was first released in 1961. The plot remains the same: boy with Dalmatian meets girl with Dalmatian and the dogs fall in love, leaving the couple with no choice but to marry. The Dalmatians have a litter of 15 pups, which are stolen by a cruel fashion queen who wants to turn their hides into a lavish fur coat. The litter, along with another 84 purloined pups, make a harrowing escape and dodge certain death to live happily ever after together on a farm.

Though the film sticks to the plot of the original, it’s the little changes that are made which turn the film from a beloved classic to a trite children’s film with no real lasting impact.

First and foremost, the dogs in the new “101 Dalmatians” don’t talk. A couple of them seem to have personalities (most noticeably the two adult dogs), but for the most part the puppies just sit in front of the camera and look cute. Of course realistically speaking, this is a live-action film, not a cartoon, and dogs don’t really talk, but it worked for “Babe” and would have in this movie too.

Furthermore, the new version turns the dognappers’ hunt for the escaped puppies into silly, slapstick comedy. The way Horace, played by Mark Williams, and Jasper, played by Hugh Laurie, fall through roofs, get punched and slapped numerous times, take a dive in a frozen lake and get electrocuted in the crotch, among other accidents, is all too reminiscent of the many mishaps of the burglars in the “Home Alone” films. Not only are these antics ridiculous and unrealistic, to say the least, they were too violent for children. Since many of the children in the theater were laughing hysterically as the two partners endured more bodily harm than is humanly possible, it seems that the film inspired the children rather than scared them.

The one aspect of the movie that has not changed, or perhaps has even improved from the original version of the film, is the deliciously evil villain Cruella De Vil, played to perfection by Glenn Close. Not only does the character look exactly like her cartoon counterpart, complete with ruby-red lips, a long cigarette holder and wild two-toned hair, Close has mastered her personality, down to her wicked cackle-like laugh and psychotically wide opened eyes. Her dark and sinful character was intimidating, if not frightening. After seeing the film, there is no doubt about Close’s acting abilities (as if they were ever in question). The only disappointment is that at the end of the caper, Cruella, like the dognappers, is reduced to stupid stunts like being flung into a vat of molasses and sprayed in the face by a skunk.

Jeff Daniels and Joely Richardson play the parts of Roger and Anita Dearly, the dog-loving owners of the brood. While their characters are unremarkable, it is certainly not the fault of the actors. They spend most of the film doting over or worrying about the litter of puppies, leaving themselves no time to develop into memorable characters.

The film reminded me of all the reasons I loved and disliked the original (as a child I liked the plot and the puppies, but was bored by the long pursuit section of the film) and despite all the complaints, I could not help but notice that warm fuzzy feeling when the puppies were returned home safe and sound. Though the new “101 Dalmatians” is flawed, it retains some of the emotion of the cartoon classic.

For moviegoers who have fond memories of the original cartoon version of the film and don’t mind sharing a theater with a bunch of noisy, boisterous children, a matinee viewing would be a good relief for a boring, weekend afternoon. But instead, save money and catch it on video. With all the hype, who needs to see the film?

Latest Stories

Related articles

Graffiti shop splatters creativity despite legalities

What was once meant to become an ice cream parlor has been transformed into Overspray, an art supply shop and gallery showcasing graffiti-inspired artwork since April 2022. 

Commentary: Disney remakes need the magic from the classics

On April 3, Disney Studios announced via Instagram that a live-action reimagining of “Moana” is in the works.  When...

Disney’s support of Florida anti-gay bill contradicts their Pride

Despite Disney’s apparent support for the LGBTQ community with Pride merch sold at their parks, Disney CEO Bob Chapek was found to be donating to the supporters of Florida’s anti-gay House Bill 1557, known as the “Parental Rights in Education.”

Students find comfort, escape in streaming old favorites

As social distancing has led to a lonely, monotonous routine for many, some University of La Verne students are finding comfort in binging via platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu, according to an informal survey.