Film Review: 101 Dalmations II: Patch’s London Adventure

At the end of last year I reacquainted myself with the ageless charm of the original animated version of 101 Dalmatians. A film, that while slightly dated and simplistic, has a lovable quality and nostalgic familiarity to it, and thanks to the wonders of special edition box sets, I still had the potentially difficult second album, 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure, ready and waiting to continue the story.

Coming, over 40 years after the original, there is a real risk that the films will struggle to connect to one and other, but thankfully, there is enough similarity in the style of the drawings that everything ties together. Visually, Patch is as wonderfully dated as his father. You once again get the rough squareness, the free-form style of drawing that encapsulates you so much with the original and while the animation may be a little bit smoother, losing some of the “flick book” qualities of it’s predecessor, it didn’t take long for the film to drag me back into that earlier world and make me feel like I was about to watch an extension to the original tale, rather than a stand alone story.

Kath Soucie (Perdita) - 101 Dalmatians2: Patch's London Adventure

However, even though I was back into the world of spots, dogs and more spots, there was just something wrong with the characters. And it doesn’t take long to realise what. The voices. For obvious reasons the voice cast has to change but this time, they just don’t feel right. Patch especially. Who as the lead character creates a slight problem. For me, I just found him too squeaky, too foolish in tone. I couldn’t marry the images on screen to the voice coming out the speakers. Somehow the magic was lost every time they spoke.

Sadly though that’s not my biggest complaint, which is aimed at is how 101 Dalmatians 2 handles it’s target audience. Everything about this film feels designed  squarely for children, there really isn’t anything for an adult to get their teeth into. Even the running time of 70 minutes hints are a lowering of the age group. And this has carried over into the story. Kids want to watch a story about kids. Even if they are puppies. It’s all too simplistic and overs simplified.

The original film worked so effortlessly because it was a story of love, loyalty and survival told from the adults perspective. It was a grown up tale with enough adventure and danger thrown in to keep younger viewers interested. This time though, they’ve lost that grown up side. They’ve lowered the story to focus purely on the puppies, and Patch in particular, going on a dangerous adventure, nothing more. As a result, it has an air of immaturity and silliness running through it. It feels childlike. Like a cartoon rather than a narrative. Which meant as an adult, there really wasn’t anything to keep you entertained. I was never bored, but I was never really entertained either. It was just a story. One that lacks any real depth or meaning, a connected series of events to put it in the bluntest possible way.

Even the characters who tell this tale suffer from this lowering of age. Those introduced feeling too extreme to be real. Too exaggerated. Stereotypical. And worse, they’ve even managed to ramp Cruella de Vil up to a level where she no longer feels dangerous or scary but rather pathetic and mad. I honestly felt that now, she had the inflection of a pantomime dame rather than the dark twisted foil she originally was.

The Lion King Poster

So there are problems with 101 Dalmatians 2, I’ll even admit that most noticeably one is me. I’m not it’s target audience, and I never will be. But ignoring that, ignoring it’s technical and constructional problems, I’ve been left entertained but pondering one big, daunting question: why would you watch it? Even if you’re eight years old I cannot see a reason. If you want a Disney animation, there are far, far better and far, far more essential viewings; and if you want a story about a lot of Dalmatians the original is a better!

Patch sadly, is just lost, wandering the streets without direction.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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