Plot: What’s it about?
It seems as though people really can change, as Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close) has become a bonafide animal lover, thanks to some unorthodox rehab techniques. As her parole date approaches, she shows more and more signs of hope, which results in the board allowing her a second chance in the free world. But this chance comes with a price attached, as if she is hauled back into court for the same charges as before, all of her riches will be given to animal charities. She is more than prepared to accept those terms however, as she loves animals to no end and now that’s she is a free woman, she plans to devote herself to good causes. Her first chance to prove her good intentions comes when a small dog shelter is closed, which means Cruella must use her wealth and power to keep the doors open. Although her parole officer Chloe (Alice Evans) has some doubts, it seems like Cruella really has taken a turn for the better, at least for the present. But when the sounds of Big Ben triggers her old memory to return, Cruella is right back on the bad side of life, which includes one of her most mean spirited plans ever.
I had very low hopes for this flick, but I ended up liking it much more than expected. I wasn’t blown away nor did I think it was a modern classic, but 102 Dalmatians is a decent enough family movie overall. Glenn Close (The Natural, Mars Attacks!) returns as the over the top Cruella and manages well enough, given the kiddie aimed material she’s working with. The supporting cast is also up to the usual Disney live action standards, but of course, the animals steal the spotlight and that’s always a plus. I really like animals in general, so talented movie animals are double cool, especially the wacky parrot found in this picture. I know some folks hate animal actors, but call me a softie if you must, because I think the little puppies are adorable. If you dislike little doggies, talking birds, or such however, then this flick is not one you’ll want to seek out. I do want to say that yes, the storyline is weak and the acting is not the usual stuff we want to see, but this is aimed right at kids and by that standard, I think 102 Dalmatians hit the mark pretty well. And while this is a children’s movie, Disney has issued a blockbuster disc and as such, I recommend this highly and think it offers a ton of value. But I want to note that Disney has issued both widescreen and full frame editions, so please double check to make sure you have selected the proper choice for your tastes.
Video: How does it look?
102 Dalmatians is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is another top notch day & date transfer from Disney, who continues to gain ground in the studio charts. I saw a couple instances of slight pulses, but these were infrequent and minor in nature, so no harm done in the end. Aside from that, this presentation bears no problems and I can’t find anything to dissect in the least. The colors have a vibrant texture and never bleed, while flesh tones are natural and consistent as well. No issues with the contrast either, detail is good and I saw no flaws with the black levels at any time. As I mention above, there is also a full frame edition of this release available, but this review only covers the widescreen selection.
Audio: How does it sound?
In a welcome notion, this disc sports 5.1 surround tracks in both Dolby Digital and DTS forms, very cool indeed. Of course, this movie isn’t as explosive as some others, but some good presence is still here and these tracks take full advantage of that. The music seems to be the most active element, especially in some of the more complex numbers, such as the Le Pelt fashion show. The music is very well presented and so are the sound effects, although usually for atmospheric tones, to keep the mood intact. The dialogue also comes across well, with clean & crisp vocals and no signs of volume flaws I could detect. So even if this isn’t the speaker shattering kind of audio material, Disney should be commended for giving it the best possible audio mixes, kudos to them for that. This disc also includes French and Spanish language tracks, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
I was surprised to find an audio commentary track on this disc, but I won’t complain and I found the track to be a pretty good one. The track features director Kevin Lima and a few animal trainers, who were recorded at different times and then edited together, which sorts of throws things off balance at times. Even so, Lima has some interesting comments and I was pleased to hear some stories from the trainers, given the amount of animal screen time involved. You can view four featurettes and while each is rather brief, they combine to offer a more extended look behind the scenes. The pieces are titled Creating Cruella, Designing Dalmatians, Animal Actors, and Visual Effects 102, with the last involving some interactive demos. This disc also includes a deleted scene, some DVD ROM content, a guide to buying a new dog, a soundtrack promo piece, and the film’s theatrical trailer.