Should I Watch..? '101 Dalmatians' (1996)

Updated on August 8, 2019
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online for over fifteen years.

Poster for "101 Dalmatians"
Poster for "101 Dalmatians" | Source

What's the big deal?

101 Dalmatians is a family comedy film released in 1996 and is the second adaptation of the Dodie Smith novel The Hundred And One Dalmatians from 1956. Of course, this live-action film is directly inspired by its animated predecessor released by Disney in 1961 - One Hundred And One Dalmatians - and takes several cues from that earlier interpretation. This film features Glenn Close, Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson and Hugh Laurie although none of the animals talk in this picture. The film did very well globally at the box office although the film's reviews on release were mixed. However, Close's portrayal of Cruella De Vil was universally praised by critics and there was enough interest to justify a sequel, 102 Dalmatians, that was released in 2000.


3 stars for 101 Dalmatians (1996)

What's it about?

American video game designer Roger Dearly lives in London with his Dalmatian dog Pongo and whilst walking through the park, they literally bump into Anita and her Dalmatian Perdita. Both dogs and human owners fall in love simultaneously and eventually marry in a joint ceremony. Shortly afterwards, Anita's boss - the vile Cruella De Vil - falls into their lives and takes an unhealthy interest in their dogs, aspiring to make a fur coat. When Perdita delivers a total of fifteen puppies, Cruella appears to buy them but is firmly rebuked by Anita and Roger.

Undeterred, Cruella employs her two henchmen Horace and Jasper to steal the puppies and bring them safely to her country estate where 86 Dalmatian puppies are already stored. With the puppies stolen, it soon falls to Pongo and Perdita to get them all back as well as a number of other animals roped in to help with the rescue.


Main Cast

Glenn Close
Cruella De Vil
Jeff Daniels
Roger Dearly
Joely Richardson
Anita Campbell-Green
Hugh Laurie
Mark Williams

Technical Info

Stephen Herek
John Hughes *
Running Time
103 minutes
Release Date (UK)
13th December, 1996
Comedy, Family
* based on the novel by Dodie Smith
Close's Cruella De Vil is a perfect recreation and one that's unforgettable...
Close's Cruella De Vil is a perfect recreation and one that's unforgettable... | Source

What's to like?

Without question, Close is the best thing in the film with her wickedly perfect Cruella. Having just finished playing the equally dramatic Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard on stage undoubtedly helps Close, with her stark monochrome costumes and cigarette holder, as her De Vil is every inch the spoilt diva she should be. By contrast, Daniels and Richardson feel much flatter and less memorable but they are seasoned performers and their whirlwind romance is believable in the context of the film.

The bulk of the film's comedy comes from the slapstick antics of Laurie and Williams who are basically stepping into the bungling shoes of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. The film does veer quite a bit into Home Alone territory but with animal performers instead of a hyperactive Macaulay Culkin after too much sherbet. Having said that, screenwriter Hughes knows that most people remember the chaotic final third of that film more than the rest so I can't blame him from straying too far from the formula here. To their credit, Laurie and Williams are adept at physical comedy so you can't complain too much. The film also overdoes the number of animals on screen as the second half of the movie is pretty much non-stop slapstick as the dozens of puppies (all looking adorable, obviously) scamper away from the goofy bad guys. Dogs, ducks, mice, horses, pigs and even a raccoon - which any Englishman will tell you, we have thousands of the blighters over here! - get involved and despite the kiddie-friendly nature, I enjoyed myself perhaps more than I should.

Fun Facts

  • The film used some 20 adult Dalmatians and 230 Dalmatian puppies during shooting. Daniels recalled that many times, he heard the dog's handler on set shout "Sit!" and Jeff would promptly it in the nearest chair.
  • Close would base Cruella's voice on Joanna Lumley's portrayal of Patsy in the TV show and film version of Absolutely Fabulous, focusing especially Lumley's plummy accent. Incidentally, both characters use cigarette holders.
  • Screenwriter John Hughes made more money from this picture than any other in his illustrious career. His contract included a percentage of merchandising profits which, seeing as the film has around 17'000 items of merchandising, worked out very well for him indeed.

What's not to like?

So if the film's funny and filled with terrific animal performances and Glenn Close hamming it up as Cruella, what's not to like? Well, there is one big problem. The film feels thoroughly Disney-fied as London is a sleepy snowy city a minute's drive from the countryside where an American is designing video games while the English are too preoccupied with looking down their noses at people. In short, it's as though nobody involved in the production had ever been to England or had only seen London in other Disney films like Mary Poppins. It might not have been so bad if this was something other than a simple blend of the aforementioned Home Alone and Babe but once the rescue is on, the film grinds to a halt. Dialogue is reduced to people shouting either "Bring me those puppies!" or "There's one - get him!" while the animals run about the place seemingly unsupervised.

Of course, comparisons with the original animated version are inevitable but I'm afraid that this version doesn't do too well here either. It lacks the magic the original had and worse still, this modern version feels completely redundant. It doesn't bring anything new to the story and instead, concentrates on telling the tale as though we might learn something from it. The only thing I learned that a remake that is a carbon-copy of the original is simply not worth the time.

Laurie (left) and Williams give a real comic boost to the picture
Laurie (left) and Williams give a real comic boost to the picture | Source

Should I watch it?

Younger viewers not familiar with the animated version might prefer this updating but generally speaking, this is a shallow and cynical recycling of old material that typifies most Disney films these days. What's tragic is that Close, Laurie and Williams put in good performances in an otherwise worthless film but fans of the original might enjoy this live-action version as well.

Great For: very young children, Close's resume

Not So Great For: hardcore fans of the animated version, people studying Britain's wildlife, abandoned dogs charities

What else should I watch?

Fans of family-friendly slapstick should probably stick to Home Alone which continues to amuse and entertain today. Plus the snow is probably more genuine that it is in this.

Of course, Babe had the good fortune to be released the year before and had the magic of seeing animals performing in great number. The fact that they talk actually helps, for once, as the film concentrates on a little pig convinced that it's a sheepdog and the dialogue helps the viewer understand what's going on. Whereas in 101 Dalmatians, we're left to guess what's being said in various woofs, yelps and barks until the film gets into its stride.

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Benjamin Cox

    Soap Box

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)