Film Review: 101 Dalmatians (1996)

“If we make this coat, it would be as if I was wearing your dog”

One of Close’s most iconic roles is Cruella De Vil from the 1996 version of 101 Dalmatians and not having seen it for many, many years, I was intrigued to see how it had stood the test of time. And surprisingly well was the verdict, from me at least. The live action film does away with voices for the dogs but still captures communication between them most effectively (and I’m not even an animal lover) and charmingly, as Pongo and Perdita join forces to defeat the dastardly scheming of twisted fashion designer De Vil.

And what was interesting seeing the film though adult eyes, was the extent to which Close plays her as genuinely insane, all bwah hah hah cackles wherever possible and wild-eyed stares at whoever happens to be in her path. It’s a gloriously over-the-top performance but she commits entirely and so delivers perfectly, you can’t help but root for her a tiny bit, she makes evil seem such fun. Joely Richardson and Jeff Bridges as the dogs’ owners can’t help but seem a little bland by comparison, though their romance is rather sweetly portrayed.

There’s also good fun in spotting people earlier in their careers – a youthful Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams as hapless henchmen, Tim McInnerny as a harried PA, even former Corrie serial killer Richard Hilman as a TV journalist, plus Joan Plowright gives good Nanny, managing to seem like she’s having good fun being picked by endless puppies (which must have been a nightmare in reality). I was surprised to see the film only at 39% on Rotten Tomatoes as I rather enjoyed it and can imagine da kidz today also liking it but then what do I know. 

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