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A litter of spotted canines. You loved them as a kid. Now you're asked to trust them as a parent. Does 101 Dalmatians honor the traditional characters Disney has repackaged for children of all ages?Disney has adapted its 1961 animated classic into a slam-bang live-action remake starring Glenn Close as the fiendish Cruella DeVil, a fashion-obsessed villainess bent on skinning puppies for a coveted fur coat. The story hasn't changed significantly in 35 years. However, the animals don't talk in this version, depriving the pups of wit and personality that gave the original an added spark.
Cautions are few, and strictly for parents of young children. Scenes of physical comedy are cartoonishly violent, but yield no casualties. Cruella smokes cigarettes throughout. A man and woman throw courtship to the wind and agree to marry just hours after they've met.
Some adults have expressed concern about 101 Dalmatians' dastardly DeVil. Indeed, her scenes project a dark tone, making Cruella an ominously cold, creepy figure. But while she may spook preschoolers, the average teen would be more frightened by a teacher brandishing a pop quiz.
Thematically, this new adaptation esteems marriage and parenthood above wealth and career advancement. The film also promotes kindness to animals, loyalty and diligence, while condemning cruelty, selfishness, greed and mistreating others. Overall, 101 Dalmatians earns its kibble as enjoyable family entertainment.
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Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Joan Plowright, Hugh Laurie
Adrian Biddle ( ), Stephen Herek ( )