Have you ever seen the live-action 101 Dalmatians? It’s okay if you haven’t, it’s just that you’re missing out on legitimately one of the craziest moves ever made. You may know the story of 101 Dalmatians thanks to the animated film from the '60s, but the 1996 live-action version of 101 Dalmatians is basically a fever dream. Not only does it feature Glenn Close chewing scenery for at least 30 of the most entertaining minutes in film history, but there are dogs doing things no living being should be allowed to do, and humans who must have had lobotomies trying to function in modern London. 101 Dalmatians is the most insane film ever made.
When was the last time you watched a movie so truly weird you kept saying to yourself, “Wait, what’s happening?” The only movie 101 Dalmatians can be reasonably compared to is Blue Velvet. It’s basically the same movie, except Kyle MacLachlan’s character is played by 99 Dalmatian puppies. It’s easy to point out everything wrong with 101 Dalmatians (and there’s a lot of questionable subtext in this children’s movie) but the movie isn’t exactly “bad,” it’s just truly weird in a way so few movies are anymore.
101 Dalmatians is objectively more confusing than Donnie Darko, mostly because it’s not trying to be confusing. This is a movie that was trying to sell as many tickets as possible, and appeal to a wide audience, which is absolutely bonkers. Keep reading to discover all the reasons 101 Dalmatians is crazy.
Who Trained Pongo?
When the audience meets male lead Jeff Daniels, he's a lazy doofus who relies on his dog to do everything for him. The guy can't even set an alarm clock or make coffee for himself. It's very embarrassing, especially considering how many of us have to wake up relatively early in the morning.
Pongo is basically Daniels's slave at the beginning of the movie. He has to wake a snoozing Daniels, make him breakfast, set the shower temperature just right, and presumably lay out the baguette that's waiting with his coffee. Seriously, who trained this dog? Because it wasn't the lazy idiot played by Jeff Daniels. He's shown time and time again to be incompetent. Is Pongo just preternaturally smart? Do you think there was a Freaky Friday thing done with Pongo and a normal human person? Why is this moving so confusing already?!
Does Perdy Speak English?
At the beginning of the film, Joely Richardson's dog Perdy is watching the news and seems to be taking it all in perfectly. Richardson acts like this is a totally normal thing. Does Perdy speak English? Initially it seems like she's just mimicking human behavior, but then she begins to legit communicate with Richardson about the news story, like they're an old married couple. Two important questions: 1) who paid for this dog to take English lessons? and 2) who in the world was able to teach her?
That Production Team Doe
If you were to guess who worked on bringing the live action 101 Dalmatians to the big screen, would you guess that it was just a couple of no names Disney hired on the cheap, or would you guess that it was one guy who changed movies in the '80s, and one guy who is friends with both Mark Wahlberg and Keanu Reeves? The former, right? Well you'd be wrong.
The movie was directed by Stephen Herek, the guy who made Rockstar, that Marky Mark movie where he becomes the lead singer of a hair metal band. He also directed Critters(!), Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, The Mighty Ducks, The Three Musketeers, and Mr. Holland's Opus. When you think about it, 101 Dalmatians is basically just all of those movies mixed together, with the help of JOHN F*CKING HUGHES who wrote the screenplay. The only way this could get weirder is if the cinematographer who filmed Aliens and Event Horizon also shot it. Oh wait, he did.
What's Up With That Video Game?
A very minor subplot of this film involves Jeff Daniels's many attempts to design a terrible, unplayable video game based around his dog Pongo. It's great that he loves his dog, but there are other things to design games around. Aside from the fact that the main character of the game is his dog, there's no health bar, clear objective, or really any discernible game mechanics. Also, it looks like the 1961 101 Dalmatians cartoon? The gameplay seems to take place in a 3D-world where you can do whatever you want, but that's not how games work. It's not really a surprise no one wants to buy his dumb game.
Also, about the company he's trying to sell games to; how are they getting away with letting a six-year-old decide what they will and won't purchase? Even if he doesn't like the game, they could presumably purchase it and put a team of people on it to clean it up. Any maybe those people would have a functional understanding of how video games work.