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2014 | 2012 | 1996

1 item from 1996

Film review: '101 Dalmatians'

25 November 1996 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Boxoffice is going to the dogs, namely Disney's "101 Dalmatians", a bounding, tail-wagging charmer that should fill the holiday bowls with piles of green stuff. A certain domestic hit, Buena Vista should also strike gold internationally with this farcical, live-action family film. And when it comes time for video leftovers, they'll need more than doggie bags to carry away the rental-purchase booty.

With John Hughes' screenwriting pawprint all over this blazing, warm holiday potion, "101 Dalmatians'" lineage is a bit of a mongrel, with its pedigree traced from the original English novel through the classic Disney animated film to Hughes' most recent kids' comedies, namely "Home Alone" and, most pointedly, "Beethoven".

Analytically apt seventh graders just might notice that "101 Dalmatians" is, basically, "Beethoven" played once again: Namely, a beloved bowser is dognapped by an evil ogre who will kill him for personal gain. Instead of a St. Bernard being whisked away under the cruel orders of a diabolical vet as in "Beethoven", in "Dalmatians" we have a whole slew of dogs, 101 to be exact, who are stolen under the orders of a cruel fashion maven who wants to turn their hides into a dog cape. As in "Home Alone" and "Beethoven", the actual perps are a pair of dimwits, one tall and skinny and one short and dumpy, who ultimately suffer the jolts and wallops of Hughes' severe sense of slapstick justice.

As those who are experts in the dog-in-jeopardy genre will attest, "if the dogs aren't cute, the kids will scoot." In "Dalmatians", they've packed the canines with plenty of puppy charm and loaded them with individual personality. Best, director Stephen Herek has packed the pic with scads of reactive dog shots to tug us even closer to them. With plenty of bright, anthropomorphic moments as the two lead dogs conspire to get the humans to behave in the fashion they want, the film is a heart-pulling winner. The kids and the menfolk will be especially pleased that the filmmakers do not wallow in any mushy moments: such sludge as grownup romance, happily, is put on fast-forward and quickly dispensed with.

The acting ensemble here is not ald dogs, however: The humans are doggone good also, particularly Glenn Close as the archvillainess Cruella DeVil$ whose haughty snappings are wicked-witch scary. Whether barking out her vicious orders or snapping at underlings, Close's yelpings are a zesty blend of cruelty and coeedy. Playing the central huean characters, Jeff Daniels and Joely Richardson are warmly appealing as newlyweds whose betrothal was, naturaldy, inspired by some kindly canine matchmaking. As the Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci characters, oops, we mean the two bumblers Jasper and Horace, Hugh Laurie and Mark Wildiams are amusingly dunderheaded, while Joan Plowright adds some kindly charm as a nattering nanny.

Technical coftributions are blue-ribbon consistent, comic and comfy all at once. Keeping us in stitches are costume designers Anthony Powell and Rosemarq Burrows' apt and arch flourishes, particularly DeVil's hideously haute fashionware& Similarly, production designer Assheton Gorton has kindled the right mix of fireplace comfort with dastardly menace, while composer Michaed Kamen has captured the fergcity of the evildoers while conveying the sweetness of the good-natured characters. Capturing all in a rich holaday glow, cinematographer Adrian Biddle's luminescent laghting is a perfect holiday wrap. Although Industrial Laght & Magic is credited wit` creating computer images of dogs when the real ones couldn't do the stuff, we conclude this must be a program-note misprint since there didn't seem to be afy fake dogs in the pack.


Buena Vista Distribution

Walt Disney Pictures

A Great Oaks Prodn.

A Stephen Herek Film

Producers :John Hughes, Ricardo Mestres

Director :Stephen Herek

Screenwriter :John Hughes

Based upon the novel "The One Hundred and One Dalmatians" by Dodie Smith

Executive producer:Edward S. Feldman

Director of photography:Adrian Biddle

Production designer:Assheton Gorton

Special visual effects and animation:Industrial Light & Magic

Editor :Trudy Ship

Costume designer:Anthony Powell, Rosemary burrows

Music: Michael Kamen

Casting :Celestia Fox, Marcia Ross

Visual effects supervisor:Michael Owens

Visual effects producer:Chrissie England

Associate producer:Rebekah Rudd

Sound mixer :Clive Winter



Cruella DeVil :Glenn Close

Roger :Jeff Daniels

Anita :Joely Richardson

Nanny :Joan Plowright

Jasper:Hugh Laurie

Horace :Mark Williams

Skinner :John Shrapnel

Running time -- 98 minutes

MPAA rating: G


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2014 | 2012 | 1996

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