101 Dalmatians (live)

MPAA Rating: G

Entertainment: +3

Content: +2

Cuteness versus Cruella is the formula for this live-action retelling of the popular Disney animated feature from 1961. A few modern touches add subtle differences to the familiar story, which is still set in London. Pongo is a male Dalmatian owned by Roger (Jeff Daniels), a video game designer working on a new game featuring animated Dalmatians. Their bachelor lives take a dramatic turn when Roger is on a bike ride with his dog jogging alongside. Pongo spots a female Dalmatian named Purdy running with her cycling master Anita (Joely Richardson) and races off after her. A wild chase through the park culminates with both adults falling into a pond and the dogs falling in love. Roger and Anita rapidly follow suit and soon get married. Soon Purdy is giving birth to 15 puppies, attracting the interest of Anita's sinister employer, fur-loving fashion maven Cruella DeVil (Glenn Close). When her offer to buy Purdy's litter is rejected, Cruella orders a couple of dim-witted goons to steal the puppies, intending to use the pelts of these youngsters and 84 others to create a spotted fur coat. Although the dogs in this adaptation don't talk, they can still bark, and Pongo howls out a distress call about his missing children. In the end it's up to the animals to save the puppies from Cruella's cruel scheme. Close's performance is suitable but not especially noteworthy as this celebrated villain, and the rest of the humans take a back seat to the adorable dogs. This cuteness factor and some exaggerated action should keep the kids entertained. But this version is hardly as distinguished as its cartoon predecessor.

With a screenplay by John Hughes and loads of slapstick, 101 DALMATIANS could easily be described as Home Alone with dogs. Punches, falls, dog bites and other punishment are mostly directed at the villains, but none of this mayhem has any lasting consequences. One very unrealistic scene has Cruella's henchmen comically shocked by an electric fence. Roger's frantic bike ride courtesy of Pongo is played for laughs, although one innocent bystander is thrown into a light pole. A potentially scary moment for young viewers occurs when Purdy delivers her litter and it appears that a puppy has not survived, but everything turns out all right. One puppy, aptly called Wizzer, urinates on a picture of Cruella. The film is free of crude and obscene language. If you don't mind the slapstick violence, this film is decent family entertainment.

Preview Reviewer: Mark Perry
Buena Vista Pictures (Walt Disney Pictures), 3900 W. Alameda Ave., Burbank, CA 91521

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: Twice (Oh God)

Violence: Several times - Moderate slapstick (man runs into post, man hit with purse, comical punches, dogs attack villains, car in flames, woman thrown, men electrocuted on fence)

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Smoking, beer drinking

Other: Dog urinates

Running Time: Unknown
Intended Audience: Age 5 and older

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