A classic film of Disney’s Silver Age of animation becomes the first film to get the live action remake treatment in “101 Dalmatians.” Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Hugh Laurie and Mark Wilson star in this film that was a hit in 1996 and certainly played a part in the live action remake schedule we are currently seeing 25 years later. It’s a bit longer than the animated classic, but it still tells the same story, with a modern twist, and does it fairly well.
Glenn Close steals the show in this film. While in an animated story, you can put the major focus on the dogs, in the live action you have to have a person drive the movie and the only choice for that in this film is Cruella de Vil, much in the same way Maleficent had to be the driving force of any live action version of “Sleeping Beauty.” The actress to play Cruella had to be perfect or this film would’ve failed. Fortunately, for everyone involved, Glenn Close perfectly embodied how maniacal Cruella is as she is trying to get enough puppies to make a fur coat. She’s insane, it’s obvious and it works.
On top of Close’s magnificent performance, the bumbling buffoons who play Horace and Jasper have to be funny and clumsy. These two are perfectly encapsulated by Hugh Laurie and Mark Wilson. While they have grown to be bigger stars since this film thanks to their roles on “House” and in the “Harry Potter” series, respectively, in 1996, they were the right two guys for the job. It’s always great to go revisit early roles for beloved actors. I don’t know if we really appreciated what these two could do back in 1996. But, when you know what they go on to do, it makes their performances even more enjoyable.
While this is a fun film, it’s far from perfect. Honestly, Jeff Daniels and Joely Richardson aren’t bad, but they don’t stand out. They’re just there. I know Jeff Daniels can stand out, he just doesn’t here. It’s one of his more low key performances. Meanwhile, I don’t know much about Joely Richardson as an actress. I know the name, but I can’t think of anything I’ve seen her in. Also, the attempts to update Roger’s profession hasn’t aged well. In the 1960s cartoon, he’s a song writer. That would’ve worked better here. While video games will always be big, it feels forced to make him a game designer. They tried, and I give them credit, but it feels like they just said “video games are popular, make him a video game designer.” It’s an idea that’s great in theory, but for me, failed in practice.
Despite those complaints, it’s an excellent movie. I had fun going back to revisit it. And, honestly, those complaints are minor overall. I’m glad this worked, because I have really liked some of the live action remakes. I don’t know if we would’ve gotten any of the others had this failed. That could be a double-edged sword, but I’m thankful for them and I’m thankful for this one.
Ranking: 4 stars out of 5
What did you think of “101 Dalmatians?”
Jeremy has been a big Disney fan since he was a kid growing up during the Disney Renaissance. One day he hopes to go to every Disney Park in the world.