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Vault Movie Review: “One Hundred and One Dalmatians”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Theatrical Release: 1/25/1961

Theatrical Release: 1/25/1961

Synopsis

Roger (Ben Wright) is an aspiring musician, and he spends his days writing music and taking his Dalmatian named Pongo (Rod Taylor) for occasional walks. In an attempt to find love for Roger, Pongo hatches a scheme to force the meeting of Roger and Anita (Lisa Davis), who just so happens to have a Dalmation of her own, Perdita (Cate Bauer). The two hit it off right away, and before they know it, they move in together, and Perdita ends up being pregnant. However, with this exciting news comes some unwelcome attention from Cruella De Vil (Betty Lou Gerson).

Cruella De Vil is a fashionista and is a collector of the finest fur coats. Thus, she has an appreciation for the spotted coats of Dalmatians, and she wants the puppies for herself. Although Roger is firm and does not intend to sell any puppies to Cruella, the puppies mysteriously end up going missing. With Roger and Anita not knowing where to begin in their attempt to find the stolen puppies, Pongo and Perdita set out to find their puppies themselves.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Music & The Animals (+3pts)

Roger’s Panic (-1pts)

Cruella De Vil & Her Henchmen (+5pts)

Cruella’s Plan (-3pts)

The Dalmatians (+5pts)

Cruella’s Car & Cruella’s Fallout (-2pts)

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Pro: Music & The Animals (+3pts)

Rather than have characters randomly breaking out into song, the filmmakers added music into this movie by simply making Roger—one of the main characters—an aspiring musician. This meant that he was practicing a lot, and he came up with a catchy new song that ended up serving as Cruella De Vil’s theme. It was a simple, yet effective way to add music into a story in a way that made that music feel like a part of the story, rather than feeling more like a soundtrack. Then, on a completely unrelated note, there were also a number of animal side characters that were funny, and there were a decent amount of jokes a dog's perspective on common things—such as the Twilight Bark. Neither of these things made the movie great, but I appreciated both of them.

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Con: Roger’s Panic (-1pts)

Okay this had almost no impact on my enjoyment of the movie, and to be honest, I actually found it kind of amusing. That being said, it did not make any sense. While Perdita—the Dalmatian—was in labor, Roger was in the other room looking about as stressed out as he might be if it was him that was about to become a father. It was a laughable moment, but when you realize that it was his wife’s dog that was having puppies—and not his wife having a baby—it did not really make any sense for him to be as stressed out as he was. Again though, this was a mildly amusing moment and it had almost no impact on my enjoyment of the movie, but it was a little silly for the filmmakers to have it in the movie. Why not just have Pongo stressed out instead?

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Pro: Cruella De Vil & Her Henchmen (+5pts)

Cruella De Vil had a pretty over-the-top evil plan, but she worked because she was the kind of character that had her evil knob dialed up to the max. She stormed into rooms, filling them with cigarette smoke as she went, and she commanded the rooms that she entered—and the screen—due to her obnoxious voice and confrontational personality. As crazy and unrealistic as her goal was, it still somewhat worked because of how evil this character came across. If anyone was going to be after what she was after, it was going to be her. However, as evil as she was, she did not want to get her hands dirty. She needed to distance herself from the crime, which is where her henchmen came in.

These guys were the types of idiot henchmen that have become a staple in family Disney movies. They were bad guys, sure, but they were so dumb and incompetent that they were amusing and they allowed the protagonists countless opportunities to get away. Were any of these three characters—Cruella and her two henchmen—complex or compelling? No, of course not, this was an animated kids movie after all. One was over-the-top and crazy, and the others were silly and incompetent, but all three were effective antagonists for a movie such as this one.

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Con: Cruella’s Plan (-3pts)

To start, I thought Cruella’s goal was too mustache-twirlingly evil. It was so evil that it was almost unbelievable, but Cruella was a very evil character, so if anyone was going to have a plan as evil as this one, it was going to be her. However, I thought this movie could have worked a bit better if Cruella’s goal was more realistic. Why not just have her want to sell the puppies to make a profit, or have a bunch of Dalmatian show dogs?

Putting aside the unrealistically sinister goal, Cruella’s plan to make that goal a reality was pretty dumb. She started by having her henchmen do the actual crime, so that was a great start, as it was a smart move that distanced herself from the crime. Then, however, she had her henchmen hideout in her old, run-down mansion after having stolen the puppies. Why would you, Cruella De Vil, have a couple guys commit a crime on your behalf in order to distance yourself from the crime, then have them hide-out in a place known as The De Vil Manor? Then when the puppies went missing again, she was driving around various streets looking for them in her extremely recognizable car, with seemingly no regard for being subtle. So her plan was a bit too ridiculously evil, and despite claiming she wanted to distance herself from the crime, she put herself directly in the middle of it at seemingly every opportunity, which made her come across as pretty dumb. Fortunately, it was a kids movie, so I did not take this issue too seriously.

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Pro: The Dalmatians (+5pts)

It is a good thing when in a movie called One Hundred and One Dalmatians, one of the strengths of the movie is the Dalmatians. I liked how much Pongo cared about Roger’s loneliness and I liked his involvement in getting Roger and Anita to meet. I liked the introduction of all of the puppies, as well as how desperate Pongo and Perdita were to find them once they went missing. I also liked the heavier little puppy who was always hungry. The puppies always felt defenseless, which made the danger they were in feel pretty serious, and it got me pretty invested in seeing Pongo and Perdita rescuing them. The older Dalmatians were the driving force behind the plot of this movie, but the puppies and the quantity of them made the movie fun.

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Con: Cruella’s Car & Cruella’s Fallout (-2pts)

Neither of these issues had a significant impact on the movie, but both were noticeable enough for me to find them worth mentioning. The first was Cruella’s car, which was comically efficient in the snow. There should have been no way for it to do what it was able to do during the climactic car chase, but it was a kids movie after all, so I did not care too much. The fallout, however—or lack thereof—was something that I thought could have been handled better. I felt that there needed to be real consequences after her actions in this movie, but this movie just sort of ended without giving the audience a satisfying conclusion for the character. Any fallout happened off-screen, and while it was not a huge deal, the ending of this movie would have been a lot more satisfying if we got to see Cruella going through some sort of fallout.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B- (82pts)

I will be honest, I have enjoyed coming back to some classic Disney movies on Disney+. One Hundred and One Dalmatians was a movie that I did not remember much of before re-watching it, so I was able to go into the movie with essentially fresh eyes. It had a simple premise—puppies went missing and their parents had to find them—but it was a fun story to follow. I liked the music and the assortment of animal side-characters that were scattered throughout the movie, and I liked the Dalmatians and their relationships with their humans.

I also thought Cruella De Vil and her henchmen were effective antagonists for a kids movie, but I thought the writing surrounding Cruella De Vil's character could have used some work. She was so unbelievably evil, with respect to her goals, that it took me out of the movie a few times. I also thought that after seeing her being so sinister throughout the entire movie, the ending needed to see her have some big fallout, but that fallout never came. That all being said, this was a kids movie, so these were very minor issues, as they would be unnoticeable to the movie's target demographic. At the end of the day, while this movie was not exactly a mind-blowingly amazing kids movie, it was a fun movie to revisit and will continue to serve its primary purpose of entertaining kids.