Starring: Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson
Director: Stephen Herek
Running Time: 103 mins
101 Dalmatians is an American film about a litter of Dalmatian puppies who are stolen by thugs under the direction of the villainous Cruella de Vil, leaving their parents to launch a daring rescue mission.
This has all the hallmarks of a classic ’90s Disney live-action remake: fun, light-hearted comedy, cartoonish performances and a sweet, cheeky atmosphere. Complete with a starring role from Glenn Close, 101 Dalmatians is a lot of fun, and does a good job to evoke the joy of the original film while bringing its own spin to a great story.
There’s a lot to like about this remake, but if there’s one thing that really stands out about it, it’s Glenn Close. Playing Cruella de Vil in brilliantly evil fashion, Close seems to be having a whale of a time pulling off the most cartoonish Disney villain every put to screen.
She’s funny and still strangely convincing as a genuinely insane, evil woman who would kidnap 101 dalmatians for her own material gain, and it’s Close’s light-hearted performance that makes this live-action film still a joyful and fun watch for younger viewers, even in its darker moments.
There’s always a big difference between live-action and animation, particularly when remaking a Disney film from the very mellow Golden Age. The original 101 Dalmatians is such a warm, cosy film, but it’s a much slower and more measured affair than this much more hyperactive remake.
However, thanks to Close and great direction from Stephen Herek, this movie puts fun-loving silliness front and centre from start to finish, delivering delightfully enjoyable antics alongside a sweet story that harks back to the cosy warmth of the original film.
Certainly, there are parts of this remake which don’t feel quite as down-to-earth as its predecessor, while it also lends a little too much attention to human characters other than de Vil that just aren’t as interesting as the screenplay hopes. They’re not annoying, but it’s a lot more fun to be with the animals than a fairly one-dimensional human cast.
Complete with a wonderful use of real animals and practical effects, 101 Dalmatians is right in the sweet spot of Disney’s different approaches to telling its classic stories. It’s not quite as calming as the original, but it’s never afraid to have a bit of fun, and that’s what makes it such an enjoyably silly watch throughout. So, that’s why I’m giving 101 Dalmatians a 7.4 overall.