Operation Dalmatian: The Big Adventure

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Operation Dalmatian: The Big Adventure Movie Poster Image
Odd '90s live-action dog tale is colorful and corny.
  • G
  • 1997
  • 52 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Meant to entertain rather than educate.

Positive Messages

Never give up. The strangest people can prove to be the best. It's not how big the house is but the size of the hearts inside it. What people say and the way things are can different. "Please" is a magic word.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Juliette is plucky and cheerful. She goes on adventures and sneaks a dog home without parental permission. She is well loved by her impoverished parents. When she grows up she makes a wonderful and loving grandmother. Her parents are adoring and supportive.

Violence & Scariness

Characters struggle through economic hard times.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Operation Dalmatian: The Big Adventure is a live-action 50-minute 1997 movie that's a cheery and madcap tale appropriate for any age but probably best appreciated by 5-year-olds and others whose critical faculties might be on the underdeveloped side. It's 1948, and a tween sneaks home a hungry stray Dalmatian but doesn't tell her parents immediately because parents tend to frown upon stuff like that. She takes a private plane with a strange professor in search of Native American plant matter, also without that pesky parental permission, but nothing seems scary and everything is played for laughs.

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What's the story?

OPERATION DALMATIAN: THE BIG ADVENTURE is bookended by the present-day (1997) Christmas Eve of a young boy desperate for a puppy. The bulk of the plot is a bedtime story told by his loving grandmother about her 1948 girlhood adventure involving her adopted Dalmatian, Baskerville. Hoping to win enough money to save her family from poverty, she enters Baskerville in a local dog show, but, through a series of mishaps, he keeps turning different inconvenient colors. A meeting with an eccentric professor and a medicine man leads to the story's happy ending.

Is it any good?

The humor here will appeal perfectly to 5-year-olds, but their parents may have trouble ignoring the terrible acting and the corny jokes. This is not to say that the piece, written and directed by Michael Paul Girard, is entirely devoid of cleverness. The script does display an understanding of irony and comic juxtaposition, but it lacks wit, which shows best in the context of a meticulous plot structuring, something that could use a little work. Still, Shakespeare, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and FDR all are quoted, and that gets points.

The filmmakers try to play bias for laughs as they present a caricature of a whooping and chanting Native American medicine man, in full face paint, who happens to have graduated with a chemical engineering degree from Harvard. A wacky but warm professor, the medicine man's Crimson classmate, is central-casting-eccentric, and this is what makes the movie 5-year-old-friendly while a bit of a yawn, however sweet, for anyone else. There is plenty of highfalutin' comic vocabulary and ideas -- follicles, photovoltaic charges, molecular configurations, and polarities that extricate unwanted pigment. Parents could have fun watching this with a young child.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether the movie really thinks it's a good idea for kids to jump into airplanes with strange professors without permission from their parents.

  • Do you think dogs really talk to themselves in English? Is the movie using this idea to make a joke?

  • Who is the intended audience of this movie? How can you tell?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dogs and comedies

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