101 Dalmatians

"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 11/27/96)

By Monica Sullivan

The original animated version of "101 Dalmatians" was an instant classic from the moment it first hit theatres in 1961. Oddly, this perennial holiday favourite was released a full month after Christmas, a merchandising misfire that Walt Disney Pictures has no intention of repeating in 1996. What, you haven't been to Toys 'R' Us lately? For months, Dalmatian books and toys have been flooding the shelves, creating a near-fever pitch level of anticipation for its new live action re-make.

And the pleasant surprise is that, even with all the hype, time and human beings have been kind to "101 Dalmatians." Unless you're a canine-ophobe, it remains a wonderfully entertaining story with one of the all-time great movie villains ever. Over the years, Cruella De Vil has made such an indelible imprint on our imaginations that it's hard to imagine what we ever did without her. She is pure evil, with no redeeming qualities and no tragic youth to soften our hearts and dilute her dastardly, despicable vileness. SHE WANTS TO HURT CUTE LITTLE PUPPIES: is there anything worse? Betty Lou Gerson created the voice for the Cruella we all grew up loving to hate, now Glenn Close inhabits the role, fresh from her Tony-winning recreation of another larger-than-life legend, Norma Desmond. Check out the movie posters, folks, who's on them? Roger? No. Anita? No. All those darling puppies, OF COURSE, but it's mostly CRUELLA in all her nasty, wild-haired glory. Close clearly relishes the role that is, as one movie buddy quipped, every drag queen's dream. Expect to hear masses of Cruellas knocking at your door on Hallowe'en just in time for what I anticipate will be the video release of the new Dalmatians movie.

Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Joan Plowright and Hugh Laurie plus dozens of life-like animatronic characters are among the appealing co-stars. Also on the program is a great Mickey Mouse cartoon of recent vintage, "Runaway Brain" and a preview of next year's "Hercules." I don't know about that one: The self-referential hype in the previewed musical sequence is already way out of control.

Copyright 1996 Monica Sullivan

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