The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, July 8, 2001
Wide Angle

Lacklustre sequel leaves one cold
Ervell E. Menezes

THIS thing about releasing films apt for the time of the year had been forgotten by Hollywood in recent years. There were no special Christmas releases and holidays often went unnoticed. This time, the release of 102 Dalmatians will coincide with the summer vacations.

Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil in 102 Dalmatians
Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil in 102 Dalmatians 

This is a good thing, except that the film isn’t good and that’s putting things mildly. One aspect about sequels is that they rarely live up to the parent film. It is also an easy way out with the producers, who do not have to look out for a new subject, a good story and other such related factors. This has turned out flogging 101 dead dalmatians, to say nothing of the last one added.

For starters, the plot is wafer-thin. Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close) is granted parole when she promises to go straight. No fur, no dog-nappings, nothing. But can you make a dognappers tail straight? As if to quantify evil, Cruella has fashion designer Jean Pierre Le Pelt (Gerard Depardieu) in cahoots. That surely does not mean doubling the dose of villainy and enhancing the entertained value of the film.

As far as the vets are concerned, for the visuals and the gloss director Kevin Lima’s effort could be commended. He fails in the emotional aspect. The story lacks feeling, humanity. It has no heart, never mind the soul. The dog-loving probation officer Chloe Simon (Alice Evans) is probably the most vibrant of the characters and her romance with the dog shelter owner Kevin Shephard (Ioan Gruffudd) does provide some warm moments. Otherwise, the action is to impersonal — just a collection of anecdotes with little rhyme, and even less reason.

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Oddball, the latest edition of canines and without spots is cute and its edge of the skyscraper sequence is no doubt inspired from one of the Laurel & Hardy movies. The parakeet has the best lines and the manner in which the animals handle sophisticated electronic equipment is exemplary. But that coldness tells on the film. It is like a circus where all kinds of impossible things are accomplished but not the ones that really touch the heart. In trying to please the adults who accompany their kids to the film, the film falls between two stools and this is not the first children’s film to do so of late.

How would Derpardieu’s presence enhance the film as far a child is concerned? The French star means nothing to him or her. It is what they do that matter. Elders being made fun of is what a kid likes to see and that happens only towards the end when Cruella (incidentally she tries to change her name to Ella, in an effort to wipe off the past) goes through the slapstick grind in the bakery. By then however most kids would be deep into slumber.

Even Glenn Close, who was quite spontaneous in the parent film, overacts in the sequel. Depardieu, of course, is wasted and Alice Evans is the best by default. The dog dinner is in poor taste this amazingly lacklustre sequel. Quite avoidable.

All the Pretty Horses is much more honest. It demolishes that aura of romance associated with the Wild West, of cowboys and horses. If we in India have grown up with it (thanks to Hollywood) why shouldn’t the Americans feel it even more?

Penelope Cruz and Matt Damon in All the Pretty Horses
Penelope Cruz and Matt Damon in All the Pretty Horses 

So, when John Grady Cole’s (Matt Damon) mother sells the ranch he spent his early life on, he decides to go south of the border on horseback along with his best Pal Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas) But their dream turns out to be a nightmare. Life is never what it seems to be.

Based on Cormac McCarthy’s best-selling novel of the same name (which is part of a trilogy), it captures the West as it is now in transition, bereft of that old glamour. Says director Billy Bob Thornton: "This is a story about a lot of things—about people growing up, dealing with changing times, letting to of the past, figuring out who loves them and who doesn’t, deciding who they can trust and who they can’t and ultimately discovering what their lives are about."

They run into a volatile teenage misfit (Lucas Black) and Cole falls madly in love with a Mexican landowner’s daughter Alejandra (Penelope Cruz). It is forbidden love and that is why means more problems. It is a long, arduous path that they have to traverse. Even though Ted Tally’s screenplay (he won an Oscar for it) is adequate, the film could have done with some dramatic relief. That apart, like Robert Redcord’s The Horse Whisperer it is a film that has something to say, not just an entertainer. Well worth watching.

Home This feature was published on June 3, 2001