A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 102 Dalmatians is the sequel to the live-action 101 Dalmatians released in 2000, and it has a good many scenes of comic jeopardy to both dogs and humans. Kids who are comfortable with larger-than-life danger, cackling villains, and puppies being stuffed into burlap bags (all accompanied by suspenseful music) should have no problem discerning that nothing is real. But for younger or more sensitive little ones, it could be scary. The central story involves Cruella De Vil's attempts to dognap puppies, kill them, and make a fur coat out of their pelts. She’s an iconic villain and there's no end to the absurd mayhem she and her partners-in-crime cause. A few scenes show Cruella smoking; she proposes a toast with a silver goblet; celebratory champagne is poured on another occasion.
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What's the story?
In 101 Dalmatians (Live Action), all-time great movie villain Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close) is sent to jail for dog-napping with the intention of making the dalmatian puppies into a fur coat. As the sequel, 102 DALMATIANS, begins, Cruella has been rehabilitated through the experimental efforts of a behavioral scientist. Now she wants to be known simply as "Ella," a friend to all animals. When she is released from prison, she's immediately assigned to a sweet parole officer named Chloe (Alice Evans), who just happens to own a family of dalmatians. Ella tosses away all her furs and takes over the "Second Chance" dog sanctuary, run by the adorable Kevin (Ioan Gruffudd). But Ella's rehabilitation, it turns out, can be reversed by Big Ben, the chimes of London's famous clock tower. In just a few gongs she is back to Cruella and her old passion for a dalmatian puppy coat, only this time she wants it with a hood, requiring one more puppy than her original 101 figure. With the help of fashion fur designer Monsieur LePelt (Gerard Depardieu) and her loyal henchman Alonzo, they capture the puppies, making it look as though Kevin took them, and take off for Paris, followed by Chloe, Kevin, and their assorted animals, including a parrot who thinks he's a dog.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Kevin explains that he was arrested once for kidnapping dogs from a laboratory, and families may want to discuss how people sometimes decide to break rules to defend values they feel are important.
Why does the dog Oddball feel bad about not having spots?
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