102 Dalmatians is better than the first live-action version, though still not as good as the original 1961 animated classic, 101 Dalmatians. Other than Cruella, the human characters are bland. And in the live-action versions, the dogs don't talk so they're harder to connect with as characters. That leaves us with not much more than a plot that is already very familiar (Cruella takes dogs, dogs get rescued) along with a great villain, cute puppies, and sensational costumes. Although there are some sweet moments and a satisfyingly silly comeuppance for Cruella, the movie is slow going -- in fact, the credit sequence is livelier than the movie itself. In a particularly poor choice, there is a scene in which the dogs watch a video of Lady and the Tramp, enjoying the "Bella Note" scene while Chloe and Kevin, out on a date, share a plate of spaghetti. It may be intended to induce nostalgia and a sense of connection, but what it induces instead is regret that we're watching this movie instead of that one.
Kids may find parts of the movie confusing, like the brief scenes with Dr. Pavlov, who explains that he has cured Cruella with behavior modification, and her subsequent relapse, triggered by a clock chime. One of the dalmatian puppies has no spots, and is named Oddball. As we expect, she feels bad about being different and then proves her worth. But this mild little message is undercut by having her then develop spots as a part of the happy ending.