With the undeservedly big money they made the first time they tried a live action version of the classic "101 Dalmatians," Disney just couldn't let these dogs lie. "102 Dalmatians" is the grim sequel to that charmless remake, and it's all bark with no creative bite.
This story focuses on the family of Dipstick, now a grown dog whose owner, Cloe Simon (Alice Evans) is London's prettiest parole officer. Cloe, a dog lover, is stunned when she is assigned the newly "rehabilitated" Cruella de Vil (Glenn Close), the woman who tried to make a coat out of her dog's family three years before.
Cruella ("Please, just call me 'Ella'") has undergone psychological treatments from a Dr. Pavlov, which have her seeming docile and generous-- and positively anti-fur. The problem is, that loud sounds-- like a bell ringing-- undoes Pavlov's work, and Cloe's office is right next to Big Ben.
When Cruella reverts, she uses the dog shelter of the naive Kevin (Ioan Gruffudd of "Horatio Hornblower") as her cover for a new dognapping scheme along with her butler Alonzo, (Tony Robinson) and an unscrupulous furrier who matches her for outlandishness, Monsieur Le Pelt (Gerard Depardieu).
I thought the first remake lost a lot of its appeal since the story could no longer be told from the animals' points of view; and because of an overdose of John Hughes' "Home Alone"-style slapstick-- but even a dose of that would enliven this dreary story.
Evans and Gruffudd make a really dull couple. Heck the animated Roger and Anita had more chemistry than these two.
Close has fun once again as Cruella, though without the novelty value of her first performance; and Depardieu can't quite keep up with her. Together, they seem more like they should be in a Batman movie than something inspired by Dodie Smith's novel.
Unlike the original, in which pets had their own networks unknown to humans, in "102 Dalmatians," a parrot talks conversationally (he thinks he's a rotwieller, and gives us the movies few decent laughs), dogs go to theaters, and babysit themselves watching videos. They use the phone, and play computer games with their owners.
After that, when a steam train called the Orient Express leaves London for PARIS, it hardly seems worth noting how stupid that is.
Director Kevin Lima directs at a sluggish pace, gives us a few garish-- but not really interesting-- visuals, and the action scenes are amateur night. Every scene is cloyingly played for either a giggle or an out loud "Awwwww."
Other than Close, the only part of this movie that shows any amount of professionalism is the work of the dog trainers. Some very cute and remarkably adept pooches account for the extra half star in my rating.
Weirdly for a kiddie flick, "102 Dalmatians" even has an ANTI-redemptive message. Cruella can never change no matter how hard she tries, and Kevin is a fool for believing that she can. That's almost as depressing as the damage that Disney has done to the memory of one of their greatest animated features.