(out of 5)
The smarmy, overlong and annoying 101 Dalmatians directed by Stephen Herek gets a huge lift from a highly superior sequel, this time directed by Tarzan‘s Kevin Lima. More faithful to the original animated version of the 60s than its predecessor, Lima keeps the pace going and keeps the action lively. This time around, Cruella DeVil (once again played with brilliant panache by the unbeatable Glenn Close) has gotten out of prison on parole because of successful rehab, and finds herself surrounded by animals she’s saving from homelessness. But is she really cured? Are the rehabilitation methods used by Dr. Pavlov completely foolproof? Buy a ticket and find out! This time around, the cartoon-land world of Cruella with her crazy hairdos and outrageous outfits is better worked into the visual fabric of the film (with costume designer Anthony Powell outdoing himself), and her screeching scenes and preening are kept to a healthy minimum (as it turns out, less is more). Doing their best to keep the animals safe from her clutches are two kindly humans (Ioan Gruffudd and Alice Evans) who also find a growing fondness for each other in the process (the Lady and the Tramp scene was actually funny, especially when Gruffudd pushes his meatball to Evans’ plate). Evans isn’t really charming enough to be a movie star or hold her own presence in such a large film, but Gruffudd with his kindly face and irresistible charisma are enough to keep everything safe. The animals are marvelous in their performances, excellently trained as they were in the first installment, though better used this time around (but I must say the conversationally-able parrot did make me arch an eyebrow or two). Great family fun capped with an exciting climactic finale in a giant Parisian bakery!
Directed by Kevin Lima
Produced by Edward S. Feldman
Music by David Newman
Production Design by Assheton Gorton
Costume Design by Anthony Powell
Film Editing by Gregory Perler