'Dalmatians' sequel not as bad as first

Posted: Thursday, December 07, 2000

'102 Dalmations'

2 stars

Directed by: Kevin Lima

Starring: Glenn Close

Rated: G (there's puppy peril, but not as much as in the predecessor)

Should you go? "Rugrats" is a better kiddie choice (and, by the way, did you know "Chicken Run" became available on video Tuesday -- in it, you'll see a more imaginative version of the finale of "102 Dalmatians").

"101 Dalmatians" is the finest animated movie ever, so the loud, crude, live-action "101" of four years ago was a desecration on a level with throwing acid at a Van Gogh.

Happily, the live-action sequel, "102 Dalmatians," is a lesser offense, the equivalent of hurling a cup of water at a Leroy Nieman.

As in the previous movie, Glenn Close is the biggest asset. She is very funny as furophile Cruella De Vil, who longs for a Dalmatian wrap. And Close gets more to work with this time: At the beginning of "102," prison has reformed Cruella, who now does humble charity work at a puppy rescue mission.

Think that'll last? Or do you think she'll break down and try to murder herself a couple of ponchos?

If you guessed that "102" would find Cruella cruellaier than ever, you're way ahead of the movie. By definition, there are no surprises here, unless you count Gerard Depardieu's surprisingly lackluster work as a fashion designer. An apparent take-off of Karl Lagerfeld, Depardieu's entire performance consists of pronouncing "puppy" like "poopy."

Otherwise, you know the drill: There's a dognapping, there's a rescue, there's a happily-ever-after.

Still, the dogs are terrific (the best scene, lifted from the animated film, is of the doggie grapevine). The producers have kept to a minimum the "Home Alone"-style, heads-banging-into-anvils-style of humor that predominated in "101."

And the movie is diverting enough to keep kids and parents watching for a couple of hours, as long as they ignore the totally uninteresting romantic leads, whom I see I've forgotten to mention. Oops.

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