Three years after being imprisoned for the attempted dog-knapping of 99 Dalmatians, Cruella De Vil is seemingly rehabilitated and up for her parole. But her parole officer, Chloe, just happens to be a Dalmatian owner. Can it be too long before 'Ella' is back to her dastardly ways?
Dalmatians were bred as coach dogs, and if they don't run 50 miles a day, they go a bit loopy. After the phenomenally successful live-action 101 Dalmatians in 1996, hundreds of Dalmatian puppies were abandoned after being bought by people who mistakenly expected them to be as cute in real life as they were on screen.
This film therefore carries a 'dog is for life' message in its credits, but does far more to direct people away from Dalmatians by adding more mis-fit (and just as appealing) dogs of other breeds at the shelter, and making a hero out of the one Dalmatian who hasn't any spots, Oddball. Indeed, by the end, while you'll probably still be desperate for a dog, what kind and where from is likely to be less clear.
Ethics aside, this is great family entertainment. Right from the part-animated, part-live title credits, 102 Dalmatians manages to balance child and adult appeal, holding everyone's attention until the finale. A dodgy moment comes in the form of a talking parrot that thinks it's a Rottweiler (voiced by Eric Idle), but even he becomes not only likeable but funny within the first half hour.
Gruffudd and Evans (who became a real-life couple after filming ended) are a lot less wet than 101's Jeff Daniels-Joely Richardson pairing, being both devastatingly attractive while playing their roles sweetly without being sickening - the highlight being a recreation of the spaghetti scene from Lady And The Tramp.
The script throws them plenty of smart lines, but not enough adult dialogue to alienate the kids. But the real genius here is Close. In terms of physical performance, what she does here is on a par with Daniel Day-Lewis in 1989's My Left Foot. Covered in all manner of gunk, she proves herself a wonderful slapstick comedienne, while still managing to embody pure evil. Breathtakingly stunning and totally brilliant in every scene, she is never afraid to be utterly humiliated. Set aside cynical mumblings about the size of her paypacket and it's obvious that the only reason such a respected actress would put herself through such horrors is if the film was worth it - thankfully this is.
Rollicking good fun! Superior to the first live-action movie, with the humans given more to do and a pace that never lets up. A treat for dog-lovers and family audiences alike.