Making the Grades
101 Dalmatians is "Suitable for all ages"? When films like Sense And Sensibility are classified as Parental Guidance (maybe to keep children from falling asleep too early), I wondered just what kind of film, other than an animation, would be able to earn the coveted "G" rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Much to my surprise, the new live-action 101 Dalmatians has achieved that goal, and has left me even more confused about film ratings.
Produced and written by John Hughes, the infamous creator of the Home Alone series, 101 Dalmatians is a breed apart from the familiar animated version we grew up with. Like my criticisms of the Home Alone series, 101 Dalmatians is chock full of "cartoon violence" where real people are subjected to incredible assaults, and then walk away without any consequences for their actions.
Assuming most readers are familiar with the plot, the final two-thirds of the film involving the antics of the dognapping crooks Horace (Mark Williams) and Jasper (Hugh Laurie) are pure Home Alone style violence. Scenes include them falling two stories through an old floor, having their genitals shocked on an electric fence, and many other visual stunts and gags of the same nature.
A new character, Skinner (John Shrapnel), plays an evil taxidermist who will take care of skinning the puppies. He comes with a tool kit full of props from a b-grade horror flic. Glenn Close, playing Cruella De Vil, the boss to Horace and Jasper, is involved with much of the physical "comedy," but certainly the most offensive thing she adds to the film is her repeated screaming, "Get those puppies!"
With Disney's power marketing force, parents and children everywhere are seeing spots before their eyes, and this movie will be a big seller. But a "G" rating tells parents that a movie is okay for any child to watch, and the new 101 Dalmatians doesn't fit that category. Parents should view this film first, and then decide if they should throw it to their children or the dogs.