"101 DALMATIANS II: PATCH’S LONDON ADVENTURE – SPECIAL EDITION"


        MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Barry Bostwick as THUNDERBOLT
    Jason Alexander as LIGHTNING
    Martin Short as LARS
    Bobby Lockwood as PATCH
    Susan Blakeslee as CRUELLE DE VIL

    Rated G
    Studio: Disney
    Directed by: Jim Kammerud & Brian Smith

About five years ago, the Disney company was in full swing with their animated direct-to-video sequels. The ones I have enjoyed most have been the ones that don’t come from their fairy tale repertoire. This is mainly because it’s a struggle to find out what happens after “Happily ever after.”

While “101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure” wasn’t the best animated sequel to come down the pike, it’s really not that bad. And that says a lot coming from me, who counts the original “101 Dalmatians” in my top five Disney animated films.

This film comes from the point of view of Patch, one of the 101 pups. While Roger and Anita are moving to a better life (and a bigger home), the puppies struggle with keeping their individuality in a sea of conformity. Patch is having particular problems, and he longs for a life of adventure like his favorite TV character, Thunderbolt.

When Patch is left behind on the move, he teams up with the dog who plays Thunderbolt who is in town for publicity, and together they try to become heroes. However, Cruella De Vil rears her ugly head and plans to kidnap the gaggle of puppies once again. It’s up to Patch and Thunderbolt to thwart her plans.

The return of the mass Dalmatian kidnapping is a bit overused after the original and two live-action films. However, you can’t discount a classic Disney villain like Cruella De Vil. It wouldn’t be a Dalmatian movie without her. Still, this leads to some scenes that seem to be completely imitated from the classic film.

Ultimately, though, “101 Dalmatians: Patch’s London Adventure” is a great little film for kids. Everyone seems to love the Disney dogs, and another adventure that is loaded with puppies will always be a winner for family viewing. If you’re familiar with the Disney direct-to-DVD sequels, you can compare this to “Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure.”

The DVD comes with the features that were included in the previous 2003 release. There are music videos for “Try Again” and “You’re the One,” a look at Thunderbolt, a behind-the-scenes “Dog-umentary” and a “Lost in London” set-top game. Aside from its emergence from the Disney vault, this release is a special edition for including a new, and quite fun but somewhat complex set-top game “Patch’s Twilight Adventure.”



"101 DALMATIANS"


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Glenn Close as CRUELLA DE VIL
    Jeff Daniels as ROGER
    Joely Richardson as ANITA
    Joan Plowright as NANNY
    Hugh Laurie as JASPER
    Mark Williams as HORACE

    Rated G
    Directed by: Stephen Herek
    Studio: Disney

There was a time in the 1990s when the Walt Disney company started reviving classic animation and shooting live-action versions of them. The result were some decent films, but not always perfect. One that sticks in my mind is the live-action version of “George of the Jungle,” which was cute but not great. Still, it was par for the course set by the original cartoon.

Around the same time, they adapted “101 Dalmatians” into a live action adventure. It was quite risky on the studio’s part because they made the bold decision to not have the dogs talk. This worked well, actually, because talking live-action pups might have been a bit distracting.

In order to make the movie work, they had to bring one of the best Disney villains to life – Cruella De Vil. For this part, they enlisted the skills of Glenn Close, who completely owned the role and gave us as good of a live-action Cruella as we could expect.

Aside from non-talking dogs, there were some other changes to the story. One of these changes was to update Roger’s (Jeff Daniels) job from songwriter to video game designer. This was a clunky and awkward change, but fortunately, it didn’t have too much bearing on the rest of the film.

When all is said and done, I did enjoy the live-action “101 Dalmatians,” which is a huge compliment considering the original animated film from 1961 is one of my favorite Disney films. A lot of this credit goes to Glenn Close for making Cruella as good as she did.

For the family audience, the film works well. The updated aspects to the story are more relateable to children nowadays, and while the dogs are cute, their less-personable aspects are tempered by some over-the-top slapstick humor.

The recent re-release of “101 Dalmatians” is a simple redo of the previous DVD release, and no new bonus features are included. It’s a DVD for the film only with no other incentives beyond that.



"102 DALMATIANS"


    MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    STARRING
    Glenn Close as CRUELLA DE VIL
    Gerard Depardieu as JEAN-PIERRE LE PELT
    Ioan Gruffudd as KEVIN SHEPERD
    Alice Evans as CHLOE SIMON
    Tim McInnerny as ALONZO
    Eric Idle as WADDLESWORTH

    Rated G
    Directed by: Kevin Lima
    Studio: Disney

After the monster success of the live-action version of “101 Dalmatians,” the Disney studios planned a live-action sequel. This is not to be confused with the animated sequel of “101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure,” which has an entirely unrelated plot that focuses on a puppy rather than humans.

The ensemble brought together for “102 Dalmatians” is a step down from the previous film, but it still features Glenn Close in the pivotal role of Cruella De Vil. It begins in an asylum where Cruella has been placed following her failed attempt to kidnap the puppies in the previous film.

A psychiatrist believes he has rehabilitated Cruella, and she is released from confinement. She’s been given an aversion to fur and puppies, but the treatment doesn’t hold. She soon cracks and reverts to her old puppy-napping ways. This time, she’s targeting Pongo’s offspring in the hands of a Cruella’s probation officer (Alice Evans) and a well-meaning animal rescuer (played by a pre-Fantastic Ioan Gruffudd).

The dogs still don’t talk in this film, but a level of animal cuteness is brought into play with a talking macaw (voiced by ex-Python Eric Idle) who believes he’s a dog. There’s also a misfit Dalmatian named Oddball who is without spots, which utterly confuses and revolts Cruella.

The story of this film is a bit forced, trying to shoehorn the characters and plot into a similar theme. In this version, Cruella now wants to kidnap 102 dogs (instead of the previous 99) in order to make a coat with a fabulous hood. She enlists the help of a furrier name LePelt (Gerard Depardieu) and her driver Alonzo (Tim McInnerny), who both get a little squeamish about killing puppies.

Much of the same elements of slapstick and physical comedy fill this movie, and that helps save it. Having seen both films with my young sons, their favorite parts are when Cruella gets her comeuppance.

Like the previous live-action film, Glenn Close is the real star, making Cruella De Vil larger than life and even more obnoxious. She goes a bit too far in this movie, but it’s not terrible. She saves the movie with her level of acting quality, but not enough to warrant a “103 Dalmatians” flick.

The DVD comes with a large slate of special features that make up for the relatively scant bonus material on the re-release of the live-action “101 Dalmatians.” There’s a deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes faturettes, a “Puppy Action Download” musical montage, interactive visual effects and costume features, the theatrical trailer and an audio commentary track.

Finally, there’s a well-meaning warning to families about what to expect from a real Dalmatian puppy, and a suggestion to only get one if you’re ready to deal with a high-energy dog. I don’t know if this is going to suppress the uptick in Dalmatian breeding driven by these movies, but at least the studio is making an effort.



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