A scene from '102 Dalmatians'
Courtesy Photo
** stars 101 minutes | Rated: G
Opened: Wednesday, November 22, 2000
Directed by Kevin Lima

Starring Glenn Close, Gerard Depardieu, Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Evans, Tim McInnery, Ben Crompton & Eric Idle (voice)


Little more than a video babysitter.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 04.03.2001


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Close carries generic 'Dalmatians' sequel with over-the-top performance as Cruella DeVil

By Rob Blackwelder

If it weren't for the vivaciously rabid scenery chewing by Glenn Close and Gerard Depardieu -- playing maniacal fashion victim Cruella DeVil and her overzealous designer -- "102 Dalmatians" would be nothing more than forgettable (and dull) kiddie tripe.

On paper, it's a boilerplate script full of cutesy animal antics coupled with a generic love story about a handsome PETA-phile (Ioan Gruffudd) who runs a bankrupt animal shelter and the girl he falls in love with. She's a pretty London parole officer (Alice Evans) with five Dalmatians -- one of whom is Dipstick, a hold-over from 1996's live-action version of "101 Dalmatians."

As the movie opens Cruella, now a convicted dognapper, is released on parole and assigned to our dubious heroine. Thanks to an experimental therapy, she's become an animal lover, eager to mend her ways and demonstrate her philanthropy by rescuing the animal shelter. But her cure doesn't last, and in a pathetically contrived plot device the newly benevolent Cruella snaps when she hears the chines of Big Ben, turning into her old self again -- the insane pursuer of puppy pelts.

Teaming up with an unscrupulous French furrier called LePelt (Depardieu) and her reluctantly accessory valet (Tim McInnerny), she sets about kidnapping little Dalmatians again, obsessed with making a coat of their hides. And of course it's up to Dipstick, Oddball (Dipstick's button-cute and spotless offspring) and the shelter's menagerie of mangy mutts to stop them.

Chase scenes that end in vats of goo follow, and that's pretty much all there is to "102."

Naturally, Close is delightfully lunatic as Cruella DeVil -- much more so than in the awful first film four years ago, in which she wasn't allowed to do much other than scream about the awful things she had planned for the puppies she swiped. Bellowing evil laughs and decked out in perfectly preposterous haute couture, Close's joyride performance carries the movie.

She plays well off of Depardieu, who looks like a professional wrestler dressed by Sigfreid and Roy (costumer Anthony Powell got carte blanche and didn't waste it) and seems to be having a great time being evil.

But director Kevin Lima, making his live-action debut after co-helming Disney's "Tarzan," doesn't make much of an attempt at creativity after the scene in which Cruella snaps and begins seeing the entire world -- people, cars, buildings -- in Dalmatian spots. Save Close and Depardieu, "102 Dalmatians" is entirely lackadaisical Disney fare, the kind of movie in which wise-cracking parrots run on at the mouth because it lacks anything funnier or more substantial to focus on.

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