A fun but largely unnecessary remake
Live action animation remakes are always tricky to get right. The next in line for the remake treatment is 101 Dalmatians. Whilst it isn’t a particularly good film, its not a terrible one either. Despite the fact that this remake can’t touch the brilliant original animation in terms of heart and quality, a scene stealing performance from Glenn Close as the maniacal Cruella De Vil manages to portray the Disney villain to perfection. Along with a star-studded cast and a decent mix of light and dark elements to balance out the tone, 101 Dalmatians is a harmless remake that, whilst not a particularly great film, isn’t a bad effort either.
The story sticks pretty closely to the original animation albeit modernised to fit the time period. When Roger (Jeff Daniels) and Anita (Joely Richardson) stumble into one another in a park, their dogs hit it off and immediately fall in love. After a while so too do the plucky young couple, just in time for their dogs to give birth to a litter of puppies. Enter Cruella De Vil and its here that the story takes a dark turn as the fashion-obsessed De Vil vows to steal the puppies and turn them into a new fur coat. The theme of anti-fur runs deeply through the film but its ham fisted into the narrative, with a script chock full of cheesy, poorly written dialogue.
The all star cast certainly helps to anchor the movie though and the comedy due of Jasper (Hugh Laurie) and Horace (Mark Williams) do a pretty good job of alleviating some of the tense, dark moments involving Cruella De Vil. There’s no denying that this film is geared toward kids. The full on slapstick, the animated animals and the over the top orchestral score all combines to make this firmly geared toward kids. Out of all the villains in the Disney universe, Cruella is arguably one of the least menacing but Glenn Close’s portrayal here is magical. She manages to walk the tightrope between being legitimately dangerous and a caricature villain to perfection and this passable adaptation is all the stronger for it.
In conclusion, 101 Dalmatians is a fun family feature that’s sure to entertain children but not so much adults. The all star cast do their best with the lacking script and the forced anti-fur message is poorly implemented and brings down what’s otherwise a harmless remake. It can’t touch the brilliant animated classic though, even with this film that sticks close to the source material throughout. A a throwaway, harmless remake, 101 Dalmatians ticks all the boxes but barely. This family feature is a fun but largely unnecessary remake that can’t quite imitate the charm and heart the original nailed.