101 & 102 Dalmatians (Live Action)

Cover Art and Menus: 8/10
I really think the covers for both of these movies are quite good.  Glenn Close looks downright evil on the cover of 101 Dalmatians, and the cover of 102 Dalmatians is a great contrast to the first cover.  It is a bit funny that Glenn Close features more on the cover of 101 Dalmatians than she does on 102 Dalmatians, as she basically is the second movie.  I like the slick red with the contrasting black and white of the dogs.   Not bad covers, especially for children’s movies, as they are colorful, full of contrast, and very entertaining.  My 3 year old son was not too hip with the live action Cruella right from the get go, and when he saw her on the cover of 101 Dalmatians he immediately informed me that she was a “witch.”  I tell you nothing gets by this kid, and it just goes to show that Disney and Glenn close nailed it.

The menus are also decent.  Basically they are similar to the covers of the movies themselves, with 102 Dalmatians including more of Glenn Close’s character than the cover does.  It is a bit strange though as the menu for 101 dalmatians is completely static, without and music at all, whereas the menus for 102 Dalmatians has a tiny bit  of animation and some music.  Normally if a movie sees a sequel, the second release is the one where they might skimp a bit on the production value, but that is not the case here.  101 Dalmatians seems to be a sort of minimalist release compared to 102 Dalmatians.

Features: 6/10
So this is a mixed bag for these two films.  101 Dalmatians seems almost as if it was a budget title, with basically very little in the way of frills or extras, and 102 Dalmatians is chock full of Disney extra goodness.  It is bizarre to me how different these two releases really are.  Now I understand the way Disney works, and perhaps there is a special collector’s edition somewhere in the works for 101 Dalmatians, but it is a bit strange.

For the 101 Dalmatians DVD, there is really just a theatrical trailer that is included as an extra, along with some previews for other Disney films. To be honest, these are not really extras in my book, so 101 Dalmatians flunks in this department. This is really sad, as I really liked the movie, and out of the two releases, this is the one that I would be more interested in seeing documented. It is just really bizarre that nothing is included.

As for 102 Dalmatians, we start with a commentary that was really tedious in my opinion. It features director Kevin Lima, and various people involved in the making of the film. The best parts are the descriptions and detail about training the animals to perform, which really is a major part of this movie.

There are also 3 short features, that include “Animal Actors,” which is a piece about working with the animals, and using CGI for some of the tricky scenes. There is also a short called Creating Cruella, which details Glenn Close’s transformation into the evil de Vil. And finally there is a piece called “Designing Dalmatians” which goes into the look and feel of the movie. The short features are relatively entertaining and short enough that they don’t allow your mind to wander.

Also included is a deleted scene involving Cruella, and “Puppy Action Overload,” which includes scenes of the puppies set to music. Finally there is a DVD-rom program for developing outfits for Cruella (which I must admit I did not delve into) and a short informational piece about getting the right pet for you, entitled “How to Pick a Dog that Fits Your Personality.”

There are plenty of extras to keep you busy when it comes to 102 Dalmatians. Unfortunately they are a bit weak, and with the movie being so drab, you may not be interested enough to spend the time wading through the extras.

The Movies: 6/10
101 Dalmatians is a great modern update of the original animated release done by Disney.  This live action film is an adaptation of the story, with a modernization that leaves the heart of the original intact. This time around Roger is a computer game maker instead of a song writer, and he is an American who just happens to be living in England. Roger (Jeff Daniels) is struggling to sell one of his games. Pongo is Roger’s Dalmatian, and just like the original, we are left with the idea that Pongo actually is the one who is in charge of the house. Pongo makes Roger’s coffee, and pretty much keeps the bachelor on pace. By the way, Jeff Daniels is quite interesting to watch plod through the movie as Roger, and he is a great match in my opinion for the original animated character.

Things change when Pongo and Roger run into Anita (Joely Richardson) and her Dalmatian Perdy, who Pongo falls head over heels for. With some prodding, roger ends up falling just as hard for Anita, who is actually a dress designer for the rich and powerful Cruella de Vil. Cruella of course is played brilliantly by Glenn Close who really personifies the character. It was amazing to see her take on not only the look of Cruella, but the mannerisms and affect from the original.

The rest of the film pretty closely mirrors the original, so I won’t completely hash it out for you. Basically, as in the original, the Dalmatian puppies are taken by Cruella’s henchmen, played smartly by Hugh Laurie (of House fame) and Mark Williams. There are plenty of action shots involving the adorable puppies, and the film flows just as the original, which is a good thing.

While watching this movie you have to remember that it is a Disney film, and therefore the target audience is children. With that in mind I thought the acting was pretty decent. This is a remake of a cartoon, and the acting has to be somewhat over the top, which it is. I liked it as a whole, and found myself enjoying 101 Dalmatians. The heart and soul of the movie is so close to the original that it was fun to see just how they were going to pull off a live action movie where the dogs did not speak.

102 Dalmatians was a bit of a different story. In 102 Dalmatians, Glenn close returns as Cruella, after her character loses everything in the first movie. Cruella, after her stint in jail has been rehabilitated from her evil ways, and she is assigned to a parole officer Chloe. Chloe is played by the enchanting Alice Evans, who like most of the actors do a decent job in the movie, even though it is a bad story and script. Chloe interestingly owns one of the Dalmatians from the first movie, Dipstick. Dipstick and Chloe are not sold on the fact that Cruella is a changed woman, even though Cruella bankrolls an animal shelter run by Kevin, who is played by Ioan Gruffudd.

Shockingly Cruella is not really rehabilitated, and soon tries to get more Dalmatian puppies for her ultimate outfit. She teams up with French designer Jean-Pierre Le Pelt, who is played by Gerard Depardieu. (I must comment that I still don’t understand the whole Depardieu as a sex symbol thing, but I digress). Le Pelt is a mishmash of terrible fashion, and his character looks so ridiculous that Cruella de Vil’s outfits look tame by comparison. At the point where they introduced Le Pelt, I literally was taken out of the movie, as it just became so absurd.

Anyway, the rest of the movie involves the relationship between Chloe and Kevin, as they team up to thwart Cruella’s evil plan to make an outfit out of the little furry dogs. I must mention the Waddlesworth, who is a macaw that adds a bit of humor to the movie. The bird of course can speak, which makes this a bit different than the 101 Dalmatians where none of the animals talked. Waddlesworth is voiced by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame, and he was a welcome addition to the movie.

102 Dalmatians lacked the spirit of the first movie, and just became an absurd romp. The actors all did decent jobs with the roles that they were given, but the story was just too weak to make this work. It may be a fun watch for children, but I can’t say that I will stick around for a second viewing anytime soon.

Audio & Video: 8/10
Another great bunch of Disney releases.  Disney really seem to nail the presentation aspects of their DVD releases, and the dalmatian group is no exception.  even on standard DVD, the video is stunning.  the colors are amazing, and the shots are crisp and vibrant.  Both films look great.  I will comment that the first movie seemed to me to be slightly better looking than the second, but not be much.

As for the sound, again, both movies are wel done.  The mix is spot on and the sound is rich and loud.  i don’t know how many times I can say this, but the levels between the music and the dialogue are perfectly mixed so one side doesn’t overshadow the other, and overall it was great.   If all other studios could match the Disney releases life would be grand.

Value: 5/10
While I really enjoyed 101 Dalmatians, 102 Dalmatians left something to be desired.  For a fan of the original animated release of 101 Dalmatians (which I reviewed earlier on for Ascully.com) the live action release was fun to watch.  The story has been slightly updated but the core of the movie is left intact.  Glenn Close does a great job of channeling Cruella de Ville.  Hugh Laurie is also enjoyable to watch, even though it takes a while to get past the fact that House is now a dog thief.  What really disappointed me about 101 Dalmatians was the almost complete lack of extras, which for a Disney film just seems odd.  To compound the strange feeling is the fact that 102 Dalmatians, which is a completely different fil (read not as good) has quite a bit of extras on the disk.  the problem with that is that I didn’t really want to watch too many of he extras for 102 Dalmatians, because I did not love the movie.

I would recommend renting at least 101 Dalmatians if you are a fan of the animated version, if for nothing else than to see the story presented in this manner.   Only then would I consider renting the second movie.  The good news is that these DVD’s are not being released at this time as a set, so you can rent of buy each alone.

Overall Score 7/10

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