John Hughes served as screenwriter and coproducer of this live-action version of Disney's classic 1961 cartoon, which explains why it plays like Home Alone with dogs.
Glenn Close, as Cruella DeVil, the fur-crazed villainess determined to stitch together an ensemble from the spotted pelts of dalmatian pups, would seem ideal casting. But Close, who can usually be relied on to pluck out some humor when she sinks her talons into a nasty role, is neither funny nor frightening, just vividly eccentric—Auntie Mame in the clutches of Satan. Close's performance is irrelevant, anyhow. She and her henchmen exist, like the robbers in Home, as vehicles for violent comedy involving electric wire, pig slop and loose planks. Dalmatians is indifferent to cruelty to humans.
Daniels and Joely Richardson, as the owners of Pongo and Perdy, whose puppies are Close's prey, make a warm, romantic couple. The dogs don't make much of an impression at all. Real dalmatians are beautiful but blank-looking, the fashion models of the canine world. And, unlike Disney's cartoon characters, they don't talk.
The movie is stolen by an Airedale who hops on his hind legs. (G)