Rated: 3.5 / 5
Got the urge to rewatch this after around 15 years since the last time (man it’s been so long since I’ve seen this movie). Pretty much because I heard about this new Cruella movie Disney is making, which I’m currently not interested in seeing, because I have little desire to watch anything that company makes these days. I mean, Disney is a lot like Cruella in certain ways. A Karen you used to hang out with in college, one of your old schoolmates, lively and energetic and fun, only to become a real wicked bitch when she got older. Except in this movie, we see the puppies (a metaphor for all the kiddies they want to brainwash and kidnap and put into their pedophilic sex trade rings) triumph over the evil. Makes me think that would make for a good story, something about kids being sold into the sex trade, but then they go all Battle Royale on the sex traffickers and butcher them all. That’s a movie I’d pay to see right there.
Oh right, I’m getting distracted again. Back on topic.
Rewatching this, I’m amazed at how much of it I remember. I’m not sure how many times I watched this film as a kid, but it was enough to where I not only knew what was coming before it happened, but also that I knew what music beats would hit, and what lines would be spoken. Gotta love the power of nostalgia. Though I did rewatch with the intention of getting a new experience out of it. It’s not like I’m the same person I was back then (I’m not a kid anymore, I’m just an adult who acts like a kid). Sure enough, I did get something new out of this. For my more mature mindset, that coexists with my undying immature mindset. A constant contradiction, looking for deep insights, while still being capable of being easily amused (it’s not that I’m picky, it’s just that everyone else’s standards have fallen too low these days).
For the opening title sequence, what I got was ADD spasms. Seriously, how often the music beats changed tempo and rhythm and intensity, plus what’s shown on screen. At first, I wasn’t so sure this is an accurate representation of the movie I was about to see. I don’t recall the film being all over the place. And yet, at times, I started to think the opening sequence wasn’t too far off. The first half of this film is kind of all over the place when it comes to pacing and events. But once the rescue happens, it becomes more steady, more normal. And if I’m being honest, the same thing does kind of happen with the opening title sequence.
There are consequences to this though. I was enjoying every moment of this film, rediscovering the joy I had watching it back in the day, discovering new things that I currently appreciate about it. But also realizing that there’s a couple bits that didn’t age well for me (I’m not getting politically correct on you, but trust me, I’ll be addressing that later). After the puppies are born and start watching television, that whole TV sequence just felt like padding. Pretty sure the intention was to introduce us to the pups so we could get to know them, but I wouldn’t say it fully succeeded. Out of the 15 puppies, only 3 stood out. The fat one that’s always hungry (I don’t even remember his name), the one with the spot around his eye that makes him look like he’s been subjected to child abuse and curses like his father (Patches), and the pup that’s as addicted to television as I was as a kid (Lucky). I do suspect the film is trying to say something about this, considering these 15 puppies are the only ones watching the television at the De Vil mansion when there with the other 84 puppies (something about how children raised on television will be more addicted to it than others, or those who weren’t raised around one won’t have much interest in it; who knows?). This sequence did serve a second purpose however, that of the Pongo and Perdie taking on the thugs who will steal their children, which the TV show is foreshadowing. Still though, something I felt could’ve been done better, even if I’m still entertained by it (just not as much as I used to be).
The other bit that felt like padding was the twilight bark (and no, it’s not about fucking werewolves from that pansy-ass Twilight movie howling at the moon, and fuck you for even thinking that). Went on for too long, showing us a few too many animals who we weren’t going to see again. That being said, the film did a somewhat decent job letting certain themes shine through this sequence despite my nitpicking. We see several dogs shown at the start of the film contributing to the barking. At the beginning, we see these owners walking their dogs, and how the dogs are a reflection of their owner and the owner’s lifestyle, in particular their class (upper class, middle class, lower class, any type of class). Seeing them all join together in the twilight bark for the common cause of helping the dog’s parents recover their stolen children, not caring at all about what class or breed they belong to, just that they were dogs and needed help. It’s a nice subtle message, showing that they’re more capable of caring for and helping each other than humans are.
I guess my main gripe with those two sequences is that they’re not as focused as I would like. But again, I’m just nitpicking here, because I still get entertainment out of them.
As for the stuff I had more fun with now than I used to, it’s the human characters. I’m not gonna lie. Despite the effort put into the animals and the character they are given, the humans easily beat out all of them for me. Especially Roger, who I found to be a very delightful individual on rewatch. He’s such a fun guy to be around. Don’t get me wrong, Cruella De Vil is still fun as hell, and deserves her reputation for being one of the most iconic Disney villains of all time (come to think of it, a good portion of the classic Disney villains are female). It’s just that I never appreciated how fun Roger could be until now. Plus he’s the only human to really stand up to Cruella, even when pretty much everyone acknowledges how intimidating she is. He has to make a strong effort to be brave in front of her, stammering and stuttering while doing so, trying to remain stout and stern the entire time, when you know it’s taking everything he has to be this manly and brave. It’s such a great moment, seeing this guy stand up to a Karen, while at the same time never taking away the intensity and threatening aura of her character. It worked for both of them. Which means it’s possible to have a seen that’s empowering to both men and women (and having the guy be a normal person no less, not some alpha male or beta cuck, just a regular Joe). But this does come off as something more relevant today than it was back then. How much bravery it takes, and how necessary it is, for a man to stand his ground against the intimidating shrieking of the Karen De Vil. Or how even someone like Jasper, at his wit’s end, has enough of her crap and has nothing left to say but, “Ah shaddup!”
The thing I didn’t remember was that the film never really gives much backstory to Cruella. Never stating what sort of work she does (the 1996 live action remake fills in that detail, and it does make a lot of sense for her to be a successful fashion designer, even though it modernizes the setting a bit). It only mentions that she was Anita’s former school roommate. Implications that she’s wealthy. The main point of interest, aside from her vehicle (another aspect that’s a reflection of people in this film, for those who aren’t seen walking dogs), is the old De Vil mansion. She came from it, yet it’s been largely left abandoned, and is falling apart. Obviously a place that wealthy people once lived in, which makes one wonder why it would be left? Because she found something more extravagant? Because she had to move somewhere less rural and more urban for her profession? Questions never answered that we are left to ponder. There is mystery surrounding this woman. But let’s face it, she’s so maniacally fun that such questions don’t really need answers for this film. All you need to know is that she’s insane, and she continues to go further and further insane as the film goes on (the first clear case of this is when she gives Jasper and Horace a talking-to at the old mansion). Culminating in that crazy eye glare during the finale.
Perhaps it’s because we only see the perspective of middle class, lower class, and rural areas. We never really see into the upper high class places. At best, we just get a glimpse of them. Makes me wonder if this was an intentional decision on the part of the film-makers.
And then there’s the stuff I had a lot of fun with. There are two instances of things that would be deemed too offensive for today’s pussified ears. First there’s the obvious one, when Cruella is chasing down the truck transporting the dogs, and constantly smashing into it. And the truck driver responds in a way you would expect any guy to do, “Crazy woman driver!” Plus you have to give props to this guy. He doesn’t stop the truck and get out and ask her what the hell her problem is. Nope, he has a schedule to keep. He’s going to get all this furniture delivered to London no matter what obstacles he faces. The determination he has, along with his sick maneuvering skills with a vehicle that large and unwieldy. Something tells me this whole event brought on World War flashbacks and he just got into the zone of driving rescue missions against Abduls, Fritzes, Tony’s, Sammy’s, Alleymen, Jerries, and Macaronis. More likely a crazy Russian lady. Either way, this is one of the best car chase scenes in cinema history.
The other bit that’s a hell of a lot more fun now than it was back then, partly because of my ability to catch on to adult humor (or make up such humor when it wasn’t intentionally supposed to be there), but also because of how oversensitive and fractious society has become, is the other bit that didn’t make it into the 1996 remake. The Dalmatians disguising themselves as Labradors. From white dogs (with black spots) to black dogs. Metaphor for white people putting on blackface (I’m positive I’m reading into this far more than the original filmmakers intended). Now, while I was chuckling over this, I wasn’t planning on doing more than mentioning this in passing until this dialogue exchange happens between Jasper and Horace:
Horace: Look Jasper…
*he points to the dalmatians running by while covered in soot*
Horace: Do you suppose they disguised their-selves?
Jasper: Say now Horace, that’s just what they did! Dogs is always painting themselves black.
*Jasper bonks Horace on the head*
Jasper: You idiot!
Oh man, I laughed so fucking hard at that, that alone made the whole film worth watching again. Those puppies are having so much fun becoming black, like kids used to during Halloween. And how Pongo says, “That’s the stuff! The blacker the better!”, just brings tears to my eyes from laughing so hard. Which is why I should just state here and now, buy this movie, while you can. Before some modern Disney twat watches this film and sees this scene and makes an uproar about it, saying something like, “Yah muthafuckin’ crackers is all racist as fuck towards niggers!” and causes the higher ups to hire film editors and programmers to scrub this scene from existence like they did so many of their other films. I’d like to see the alternate ending that would’ve happened if they changed this.
“We need to dress as black Labradors to cover our white fur, that way the bad guys trying to kill us won’t recognize us. But that’s too racist, so we’re not going to do that.”
Then Cruella, Jasper and Horace burst in and bludgeon them all to death.
“Well, at least we didn’t offend anybody, even if this also resulted in the lone black dog of the film getting killed too.”
There are certain Disney films I remember watching that I enjoyed a lot when I was younger. But then there are those I remember either thinking they were just mediocre, or that I was obligated to watch and learn to enjoy somehow (like The Aristocats). One of those is the 1996 remake of this movie (which is titled 101 Dalmatians, so that they don’t have to use so many words and letters, because kids today are stupid). While Glenn Close’s portrayal of Cruella DeVille is pure gold and worth watching the film for (like how Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the Sheriff in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves makes it worth watching), the rest of it was just sub-par compared to the animated original. And this new 2021 Cruella film, it’s just making her out to be another dumb Alice twat from Batwoman, removing any semblance of mystery this character once had even with the first live action adaptation. Don’t have much desire to revisit the 1996 movie (but will probably do so anyway), and I’m not interested in the new Cruella film (which I have no intention of reviewing). The original animated One Hundred and One Dalmatians film is more fun than any of those. My mindset may have changed over the years, from the innocence of simple-minded youth, to the sullied minds of adulthood that can comprehend much more and see messages and patterns that are both intentional and unintentional, become more opinionated about subjects that I once didn’t care about. Read more into something than is necessary, create mountains out of molehills, see things that aren’t really there. Comprehend what was once incomprehensible, appreciate the more mature and complex works of art. Become more tolerant of some things and less tolerant of others (let alone patient). But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that I still enjoy this movie.
Edit (3-12-2021): Well, guess I have more to say about this. Turns out there’s a good chance the film becomes an allegory for the Underground Railroad once the puppies are rescued. Which becomes more obvious once they’re covered in soot. But then the whole thing takes a drastic turn at the very end, once the dogs are reunited at home, when the humans propose a “Dalmatian Plantation.” Hell of an allegory. I can’t believe that flew over my head. Definitely a sign you should grab this film while you can.