Flashback Review: 101 Dalmatians (1996)

In 1961, Walt Disney released “101 Dalmatians.” It received universal acclaim and made a profit a the box office. Over the years, 101 Dalmatians is considered as one of Disney’s best animated movies. Three Decades Later, a live action remake written by the late John Hughes (Ferris Buller’s Day Off, Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Vacation series) stars Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil.

101 Dalmatians was released in 1996. (same year The Hunchback Of Notre Dame came out) Unlike the original, It received mixed reviews from critics. Regardless of divisive reactions, it made enough revenue at the box office. A sequel titled, “102 Dalmatians” was released in 2000 with Glenn Close reprising her role as Cruella. Unlike the first film, it received negative reviews from critics. 101 Dalmatians earned Glenn a Golden Globe nomination for “Best Actress In A Musical Or Comedy.” Cruella appears as a focal character on ABC’s “Once Upon A Time.”

A prequel starring Emma Stone (one of my favorite actresses) filling in Glenn’s high heels will be released this May in theaters and Disney Plus for $30 dollar premium fee. Glenn is also an executive producer giving Emma some advice. I thought about sharing my thoughts on the 1996 remake before Cruella comes out.

Upcoming live action Disney remakes including “Pinocchio,” “Peter Pan,” “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs,” “Lilo And Stitch” & “The Hunchback Of Notre Dame” will be out in the future. Some might be average or misfires. I could be wrong if any of them are bad. “Raya And The Last Dragon” is out in theaters and streaming on Disney Plus. One more thing, “Encanto” will be out later this year.

Today’s review contains SPOILERS. We’re already familiar with the story. Is it as good as the original or terrible remake? Let’s get down to business.

Good & Bad Elements

Good: Glenn Close did a decent job for her over-the-top performance as Cruella De Vil. You can tell Glenn is having a good time on camera. She gets Bonus Points for her hamminess. Not in an obnoxious way.

Fun Fact: Before Glenn was casted as Cruella, Sigourney Weaver was considered for the role. She declined in favor of starring in that god awful “Alien Resurrection” I pretend, doesn’t exist alongside “Alien 3.”

Other Cast Members such as Jeff Daniels, (Will McAvoy from The Newsroom) Joely Richardson, (the wife from Nip/Tuck not the girl from Chasing Girl) Hugh Laurie, (Gregory House) & Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley) all did a good job for their respective performances.

Stephen Herek (Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Critters, The Mighty Ducks) did an ok job directing.

John Hughes wrote the script. His writing in the remake is a hit and miss.

This is not the first live action remake produced by Disney. It’s actually “The Jungle Book” from 1994. Not the one directed by Jon Favreau.

Cinematography was shot carefully without suffering from technical flaws.

The late Michael Kamen (Brazil, Lethal Weapon series, X-Men) orchestrated the music.

Costume Designs reflects Cruella’s over-the-top flamboyant personality as a fashionista before Lady Gaga’s weird outfits existed.

Cruella is depicted as an evil version of Gianni Versace in the fashion industry.

Actual dog trainers were hired on set for specific scenes as long as each dog is safe.

At the 12:15 mark, posters of “Goldeneye” & “Crimson Tide” displayed outside a movie theater. 101 Dalmatians was filmed in 1995. It’s confirmed the remake is set in The 90s. Cruella’s origin story is set in The 70s. Meaning both films are linked together. The animated original is set in The Jazz Age.

Cruella utters out a familiar phrase. “Mirror mirror on the wall.” A reference to “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.”

The dogs watch “The Aristocats.”

The Ending shows Roger & Anita moving to the countryside with a large amount of puppies. An improvement to the original, because there’s no way you can’t raise a massive number.

Cruella’s theme song is played during the end credits performed by a some guy who sings like Louis Armstrong.

Bad: Like I said earlier, John Hughes’ writing in the remake is a hit or miss.

The Humor contains a heavy amount of slapstick. It gets worse when Cruella’s henchmen Jasper & Horace are foiled by the dogs’ tactics. I know in the original, most of the slapstick was done sparingly.

An early romance happened when Roger & Anita kissed each other in the mouth. In the original, it cuts to them getting married months later. In real life, it’ll take two people to get to know one other until a relationship is fully established. Disney is known for pairing two individuals in less than 24 hours.

Unlike the original, none of the animals talk. A far cry removing the characterization of Pongo, Perdita & their puppies. A really big boo boo. Pongo is the main protagonist. Can you imagine if Alex from Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” is never given characterization or narrates his misdeeds? What’s the point of focusing on a psychopath, if you don’t see him cross a huge line? Without him, A Clockwork Orange is nothing but a snorefest.

Somewhat a far cry from the original, Roger is a video game designer instead of a singer-songwriter. Somebody said video games won’t become a thing in the future. Well, care to explain PlayStation, Nintendo & Xbox?

The remake omits Cruella’s theme song. One of the most memorable moments from the animated version cut out alongside every single dialogue delivered by any animal. It’s like removing “The National Anthem” before a football or basketball game starts.

Cruella’s henchmen Jasper & Horace are exaggerated as incompetent bad guys like Harry & Marv from “Home Alone.” Which pretty much explains why John wrote the script. In the original, Jasper & Horace were realistic as they put a lot of effort trying to recapture the puppies. I hate stupid bad guys. They remind me of pre-Daniel Craig James Bond villains except Alec Travelyn from Goldeneye.

The climatic car chase from the original is removed in favor of more slapstick.

Product Placement (Pee Pee for short) featuring brands such as Dr. Pepper, Apple, & Phillips. I’ll let this con slide, because I couldn’t spot any other brand to shove down my throat.

The Final Verdict: B-

From my perspective, 101 Dalmatians is an adequate remake. Not as good as a decent remake like “Sleepy Hollow” nor a terrible reimagining as “Rob Zombie’s Halloween.” I was gonna give it a C for some of the problems listed. However, a B- will do thanks to Glenn Close’s hammy performance. If you wanna prep up for Emma Stone’s portrayal as Cruella, feel free to watch either the original or remake. It’s your call. Can Cruella be Disney’s equivalent to Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar winning performance as “Joker?” We shall see.

One thought on “Flashback Review: 101 Dalmatians (1996)

  1. OMG I just watched the trailer for Cruella on Disney+! It looks so good! I don’t know about you but I just love Emma Stone. And 101 Dalmatians is probably my favorite Disney movie to be honest? Now if only I could go to the movie theatre again…


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