101 Dalmatians
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment - reissue
Review written by and copyright: Shane Roberts & Noor Razzak (3rd December 2008).
The Film

After meeting due to an encounter while walking their dalmatians Perdita and Pongo, fashion designer Anita (Joely Richardson) and video game creator Roger (Jeff Daniels) fall in love and get married. After Anita’s nasty boss Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close) sees her latest design inspired by the marking on Perdita and Pongo’s new puppies, she sends henchmen Jasper (Hugh Laurie) and Horace (Mark Williams) to steal the litter so she can make a coat… out of the real thing!

Any film stands or falls on the quality of its cast and crew and this one is star studded. In fact, if you didn’t know what you were about to watch and were told that it featured the director of "Mr Holland’s Opus" (1995), the writer of "The Breakfast Club" (1985), the composer of "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991) and starred five time Oscar nominee Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Oscar nominee Joan Plowright, and Hugh Laurie, plus a London setting, you would be more likely to expect a period drama or even a "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994) style English comedy rather than a live action adaptation of a Disney cartoon about an evil fashion designer trying to steal puppies to make a coat.

The director and writer were both actually already known for their comedies with Stephen Herek having had already worked for Disney directing "The Mighty Ducks" (1992) and "The Three Musketeers" (1993) and making his debut with "Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure" (1989). John Hughes meanwhile had been the king of teen movies and one of the biggest names of the 80's and early 90's (as both a producer as well as writer/director) with hits like "National Lampoon’s Vacation" (1983), "Pretty in Pink" (1986), "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" (1986) and "Home Alone" (1990), so with the mixture of slapstick and jokes/humor for all ages needed they were both perfect for the job. The late Michael Kamen was easily one of the best composers working in the 80's and 90's and while he was known more for his action movie scores, for things like "Highlander" (1986) and the "Lethal Weapon" (1987-1998) and "Die Hard" (1988-2007) films, his score for this film shows just how good he was in any genre. With scenes of comedy, romance, suspense, and a few bordering on horror, his music complements every one.

Everyone in the cast is perfect in their roles but Glenn Close completely steals the show as Cruella. Playing her like a cross between Katherine Hepburn and The Joker she has a great time bringing to life one of Disney’s great villains.

All the best family movies succeed because they strike that balance of being just as entertaining for the parents as they are for the kids, and "101 Dalmatians" is a perfect example. It may be a bit scary in places, especially for some of the really young children, but Disney’s proved that you need a good villain to boo and everybody likes to be on their edge of their seats.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this transfer is anamorphic and has been struck for this release, as the previous and now out of print version was non-anamorphic. The upgrade to this new 16x9 image is a bonus, the transfer is relatively sharp, with nice detail retained. The colors are striking and bold, they appear well rendered. There's some noise amid the black levels but nothing too distracting, some specks and a little bit of dirt pops up as well. Shadow detail remains consistent and I was not able to spot any edge-enhancement or serious compression issues.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included, all of which are in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround in English, French or Spanish varieties. For the purpose of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack. This film is filled with wonderful set pieces that feature action and adventure, these moments shine as the surround mix is both active and aggressive. The film's score adds another dimension to the film's mix and helps to immerse the viewer. Dialogue is clean and distortion free for what is essentially a solid sound track.
Optional subtitles are included in English only.

Extras

Buena Vista has re-issued this release with only a light collection of extras that includes the film's original theatrical trailer that runs for 1 minute 23 seconds as well as a collection of bonus trailers for:

- “Disney DVD and Blu-Ray” which runs for 52 seconds.
- "Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition" which runs for 1 minute 57 seconds.
- "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" which runs for 1 minute 33 seconds.
- "101 Dalmatians II: Patch' London Adventure" which runs for 1 minute 29 seconds.
- "Tinker Bell" which runs for 1 minute 39 seconds.
- "Hannah Montana and High School Musical DVD games" which runs for 28 seconds.
- "Disney Movie Rewards" spot which runs for 21 seconds.
- "WALL•E" which runs for 2 minutes 34 seconds.
- "The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea" which runs for 1 minutes 16 seconds.
- "Phineas and Ferb" which runs for 33 seconds.
- "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" which runs for 2 minutes 9 seconds.

Packaging

This disc is packaged in an amaray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: A- Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: D- Overall: B-

 


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