Taking over where 101 Dalmatians left off, viewers discover a “reformed” Cruella. With three years of incarceration under her belt for dognapping, she’s up for parole. Aiding her case, a psychologist (Dr. Pavlov) has succeeded by developing a “cure” for her cruel nature. Experiments have produced amazing results by reversing natural instincts—even a bird and a cat can live peacefully together after undergoing Dr. Pavlov’s treatments. And so it is with Cruella. No longer fixated on fur (she is shown playing gently with a litter of Dalmatian puppies), a judge grants parole. But he issues a warning. Should she violate his order, her entire fortune of £8 million will go to an animal shelter.
In no time at all something goes wrong with Dr. Pavlov’s experiment. It seems that the ringing of Big Ben interrupts brain waves, reversing his process in animals. It’s only a matter of time before Cruella herself goes back to her dirty dealings—something her parole officer, Chloe, is first to realize.
Meanwhile, Kevin (one of the good guys who falls for Chloe) is trying to make a go of an animal shelter he calls 2nd Chance. But finances have dried up. The reformed Cruella offers assistance and with her money the business begins to take shape. Still, this act of kindness is short lived when Cruella returns to the evil De Vil of the past and revisits her plans to make a Dalmatian coat. Added this time is a hood (the extra will require 102 dog pelts, up from 99). As Dalmatians once again turn up missing around London, it’s Kevin that gets framed as the dognapper (by Cruella of course). With the help of furrier and fashion designer Jean Pierre Le Pelt, De Vil and puppies board a train for Paris with Kevin and Chloe hot on their heels. Will they make it in time to save the dogs from almost certain destruction? Will Cruella get away with her vicious plans? Will Kevin’s 2nd Chance animal shelter become the court-ordered recipient of De Vil’s fortune?
positive elements: The bad guys are bad. The goods guys are good. In addition, crime doesn’t pay. Criminals are captured without any gunplay (in fact, the dogs play a major role here). Chloe and Kevin fall in love, presenting audiences with a model relationship that is wholesome and worth rooting for. A macaw puts himself in danger to rescue a puppy. When the “children” (the dogs) are left at home to watch a video, Chloe is concerned about whether it is “suitable for children.” She is told it is and viewers later peek in on the dogs watching Lady and the Tramp.
spiritual content: Just one casual remark. Cruella states, “I pray someday to be forgiven.”
sexual content: A model at a fashion show throws off an outer garment revealing skimpier attire beneath (most modern two-piece bathing suits are less modest than the outfit shown). Cruella shows her cleavage on occasion. A French furrier, who becomes Cruella’s partner in crime, makes a big show of acting in an effeminate manner. He also models some tight shorts with a lion’s head strategically placed on the front.
violent content: No one gets permanently maimed, killed or hurt although there’s quite a bit of action toward the end. Most of the violence is slapstick involving Cruella getting trapped in a bakery while the dogs control the machinery. She is ultimately mixed in batter and baked as a cake (she comes out completely unscathed by the heat). A cart runs over a bad guy’s fingers. Le Pelt explains with knife in hand that his favorite part is killing the dogs. Later, he throws a man through a window. Two scenes find the bad guys getting bitten on their posteriors.
crude or profane language: None.
drug and alcohol content: Cruella is shown smoking in one scene and drinking champagne in two others. Because she’s the evil villainess, most will see these vices as negative rather than positive.
other negative elements: Le Pelt falls face first into a toilet.
conclusion: Fans of 1996’s 101 Dalmatians will not be disappointed by this sequel. Although predictable throughout, viewers won’t mind (they certainly didn’t in the capacity-crowd sneak preview I attended which was made up of mostly younger children and their parents). Once again, Close shines brightly (or darkly) as the villainess. And although she’s evil, the director doesn’t make the mistake of painting De Vil so dark that younger children will be fraught with fear. And a Dalmatian movie would be lacking without plenty of action and a daring rescue. Of course, there’s a love story, plenty of cute animals including the macaw (who thinks he’s a dog) and a feel-good ending. No doubt director Kevin Lima made a deliberate effort to craft a fun ride for kids of all ages—and he succeeded. Teens will probably decline the movie—for “maturity” reasons—but that would be a mistake in my book! Here’s hoping for 103 Dalmatians … or more.