When Pongo and Perditas dalmatian puppies are dognapped, the (mainly) British animal kingdom comes to their rescue.
It’s doesn’t take a genuis to join the dots in this movie and see they clearly spell hit. In case you’ve never seen the animated original, Disney’s 1961 fave adapted from Dodie Smith’s novel, Anita and Roger are brought together in a London park by their smitten, scene-stealing dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita. There’s a double wedding and the canines beat their people in producing offspring. But fashion designer Anita’s former employer, flamboyantly fiendish Cruella de Vill (Close playing cartoonish villainy with fabulously dressed and two-tone relish), is way politically incorrect and craves to add a dalmatian ensemble to her wardrobe of rare and endangered pelts. Perdita’s 15 pups are abducted and while the humans wring their hands helplessly, a countrywide network of animals bounds into action to save them.
At this point the hand of producer/screenwriter John Hughes becomes unmistakeable, with Cruella’s nitwit henchmen (Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams) suffering a slapstick series of painful mishaps devised by ingenious critters (beast of field plus raccons, chipmunks and skunks which are not, as we recall, indigenous to these isles) who collectively perform the same amusing, mayhem-creating function as Home Alone’s Kevin. The dawdling with the humans is ordinary; it’s the animal action that provides the centrepiece. The true star of the show is a brilliant trained (and animatronically doubled) Airedale terrier called Kipper, who does what a dog’s gotta do to spring a total of 99 quivering puppies from a Colditz-like country manor. Where the animated version wins paws down is in its creation of distinctive pup personalities - the chubby one, the wisecracker et al - the telling the story from the bow-wow’s point of view. The live action version has its excitements, but since the animals don’t speak, they don’t attain Babe appeal, the pups necessarily limited to tumbling, being adorable or peeing cutely on cue. Director Herek, the Bill And Ted man, surprisingly shows a little too much restraint, failing to milk the full aaaahhhh potential in, say, an army of small dalmatians fleeing across a picturesque snowscape, or the last-minute reappearance of limping hero Kipper and the believed-to-be-doomed litter runt Lucky. Still, everyone gets what’s coming to them, the production is large and lavish and the principal quadrapeds are relentlessly cuddlesome enough to make this, if not enchanting, them sufficiently chucklesome and likeable to have family audiences wagging their tales.
Charming live-action version of the children's doggy tale.