Saturday, August 29, 2015

Let’s Review a Movie: 101 Dalmatians 2: Patch’s London Adventure (2003)

Well summer isn’t officially over quite yet there’s still time for some sequels to get reviewed.  So let’s get down to business 

Now right out of the gate I have to admit I have a big bias when it comes to this movie.  In the original 101 Dalmatians Patch was always my favourite puppy out of the original fifteen.  So the fact that he gets the entire sequel to be the main character means I will be far more lenient with this film than others might be.

First off I like the conflict that Patch has about standing out from his brothers and sisters.  I think it works as a follow up from where the first film left off.  The honeymoon phase if you will is over and reality has settled in that having such a large family comes with drawbacks.  I also think his personality carries over from the last film and this one.  He was quick to action and quick with words so it makes sense that he would go off to prove himself, and that he would connect with Thunberbolt as the dog equivalent of Superman.  Although I have no idea how Patch is more versed in the show than any other puppy.  It’s a black and white TV set with the black hat and white hat western.  This is clearly taking place in an era before reruns.  So I’m calling baloney on Patch being able to spoil the episode for anyone and knowing them all off by heart. Also guys you go through the trouble to try and recreate the impressionistic dark outline look of the original film and yet for the main character you redesign him so the patch around his eye is now on the wrong side, why?  Sorry as I said he is my favourite character and it just bugs me.  But I do like the voice actor they got even though they are obviously very different from the voice in the original film, because at least this time he is actually British.   

Speaking of voice acting it’s good here and the characters outside of Patch are too.  I like the over the top bombastic personality Thunderbolt has.  I think it fits in great with the hammy over the top drama of a lot of 50’s and 60’s television shows. I like Lars the eccentric artist and the weird relationship Cruella develops with him.  In fact I would have rather the film deal with that than have it just dissolve into the standard steal the puppies again plan.  Horace and Jasper are still funny and even Roger gets some fun moments with the music room, although again while the voice acting is good the difference between them for the films is jarring on first watch.  The only character I have difficulty accepting here is Pongo simply because of the whole losing count quirk he now has.  This was never an issue in the first film and it’s just so weird to see it here.  Yeah it makes sense to fuel Patch’s anxiety that’s he is just a number and not special as an individual, and of course to have an excuse for Patch to be left behind, but I still find it off for the character and I wish another narrative device had been used instead.  

The lack of innovation also rears its head in the last half of the film where Cruella defaults from eccentric now obsessed with spotted paintings back to puppy kidnapper with the desire for a Dalmatian coat.  The staff just seems to be saying sorry we have run out of ideas.  It drags the film down in the last half along with the obvious twists the story takes.  The liar revealed moment when Thunderbolt says he’s just an actor, the kidnapping of the puppies with the over the top slapstick, stealing the truck with the dress bit I liked though.  Jasper and Horace losing the puppies later it’s all standard.  The only stand out bits are Patch’s skills at escaping and Lars and Thunderbolt coming in to save the day at the end.   

The animation overall is meh.  While I appreciate the effort to get the dark outline look of the first film the over saturated colours that are a staple in the Disney sequels detract from that.  Also almost all of the background characters look like variations of Roger and Anita, it’s easy to see where laziness and budget became an issue.  Although I do like that the opening credits have that animated flare of the original.  Certainly not as inventive, but the dot wanting to standing out among the others does fit the theme of the film perfectly.  

Like the animation the music is just okay.  Since the original film isn’t a musical it doesn’t really fit in that respect and the songs are not annoying, but not stand outs either.  They don’t ruin things that don’t enhance they’re just there.   

So in conclusion this, like most Disney squeals this does not need to exist, but I still enjoy it none the less.  It has its flaws certainly, but for me the good outweighs the bad here.  I like the over the top acting of Lars and Thunderbolt. I think Patch struggling with wanting to stand out in his large family is a realistic problem within the world as it was set up, and flows naturally from the events of the first film.  I think his personality matches pretty closely with what was there in the original even if the design and voice don’t.  Cruella along with Horace and Jasper falling back into old habits drags down the last half of the film, but there are still enough fun and funny moments in there that it pulls through.  The movie certainly isn’t a Disney classic, but a nice fun little film that I still enjoy.  Others probably won’t agree, but for me it’s one of the few Disney squeals that I find worth watching.

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