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'Dalmatians': One Too Many

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 24, 2000


    '102 Dalmatians' Glenn Close and Gerard Depardieu play with puppies in "102 Dalmatians."
(Walt Disney Pictures)
Walt Disney knows that parents will take their kids to anything during the holiday season, even if it's the kiddie equivalent of "Ishtar." That's the only plausible explanation for "102 Dalmatians," a sequel so dull and formulaic, it ought to be leashed and led directly to the doghouse.

Obviously this movie (101 minutes – isn't that cute?) is aimed to please young fans. But it's paced much too slowly for juvenile fidgeters. It's hard to imagine kids paying more than lukewarm attention to this drone of a movie, its insipid romantic couple (Alice Evans and Ioan Gruffudd) and, most disappointing of all, Glenn Close's toothless encore as Cruella De Vil.

The grand dame's villainy is so blandified, she's just a cackling eccentric in garish clothing schemes. Scary? Naaa. Funny? Hardly. As Monsieur Jean Pierre Le Pelt, Cruella's sinister partner in crime, Gerard Depardieu isn't amusing so much as a bad sight gag. In his leopard-skin garb, his spiked hair and a physique that screams "No more butter sauce!," he suggests an inflated cross between Rod Stewart and Siegfried & Roy.

After three years in the slammer for dognapping (in the 1996 live-action movie, as opposed to the charming 1961 cartoon original), Cruella De Vil has undergone an apparently miraculous transformation. She's just darling these days.

Released from prison for good behavior, she tries to persuade her skeptical probation officer, Chloe Simon (Evans), that she's on the straight and narrow. Her first move: to save a financially troubled dog shelter, run by genial manager Kevin Shepherd (Gruffudd).

Has Cruella really learned her lesson? Is she really locking away those expensive fur coats? And can she keep her hands off Chloe's Dalmatian puppies Little Dipper, Domino and Oddball, who happen to be the grand-pups of good old Pongo and Perdy?

Prepare for the dullness, scripted by a small menagerie of writers and directed by first-timer Kevin Lima. If there's anything moderately funny about this movie, it's the character of Waddlesworth. As voiced by Eric Idle, he's a parrot who's under the delusion that he's a Rottweiler. But let's face it: When you need a parrot to save a Dalmatian movie, you know you've got problems.

"102 Dalmatians" (G, 101 minutes) – Contains the suggestion of skinned Dalmatians, as well as long takes of Gerard Depardieu's thighs.


Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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