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Kevin Krock, editor

DVD Review

101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure
(2003) | Approx. 70 min. | Not Rated | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio * * * * Video * * *
Goodies * * Interface * *
Value * *

The Movie

Ah, the onslaught of Disney direct-to-video (DTV) sequels continues, and it appears that the end is nowhere in sight. If you are Disney, these releases are a boon. They are relatively cheap to make, based on established characters, and generally follow highly formulaic and rehashed plot lines. It is all about franchise — people tend to buy videos and DVDs based on the Disney name and the characters they know. Unfortunately, for those of us looking for interesting new stories involving fresh characters, unique settings, and top-notch animation, these sequels are a major letdown. However, as long as people are willing to spend $125 million in 11 months for a show like Cinderella II, the trend will only strengthen.

This time around, Disney's DTV target is the 1960s classic 101 Dalmatians. The original is a true animation classic that has an interesting story, great characters, and catchy songs, and which also features one of the first uses of the Xerox animation process. This process, while a visually dramatic departure from Disney's early animation style, reduced animation costs, sped production, and provided for a raw, sketch-like quality to the character animation. Between the character animation and stylized backgrounds, the original has a fun energy about it that many of today's animated features lack.

101 Dalmations II: Patch's London Adventure, though, takes a decidedly more formulaic and commercial path than its namesake. In terms of the animation, the style is reminiscent of the original, but it lacks the visual energy I mentioned. As with many of Disney's DTV releases, it looks like something between a theatrical animated feature and a Saturday morning cartoon. Some scenes look reasonably nice, but others are simply flat and cartoony. Will your children be disappointed with these visual shortcomings? Probably not, but if you are a stickler for premium animation, it will probably bug you to no end. If you are somewhere in the middle and are familiar with the other Disney DTV releases, this title is similar in animation quality to Lady and the Tramp II, which is a far cry from abhorrent titles like Tarzan & Jane or Cinderella II.

So, what is the movie all about? The story picks up shortly after the end of the original, and Roger and Anita are getting ready to move from their crowded London flat to a larger home in the country. As the humans and canines pack up their belongings, one of the puppies, Patch, begins to feel lost in the shuffle. Patch yearns to be like his TV hero, Thunderbolt (voiced by Barry Bostwick of Spin City), the wonder dog. In a twist of fate (surprise, surprise), Patch gets left behind in the move and gets a chance to meet Thunderbolt. Cruella de Vil is still plotting to kidnap the Dalmatians, but her obsession with spots is temporarily appeased by the paintings of equally spot-fixated artist, Lars (voiced by Martin Short of Treasure Planet). When Cruella's artistic interests revive her desire to have the puppies, Patch and Thunderbolt find their inner strength, and together, save the day.

It's not a classic, but to the contrary, it is not as bad as a number of the “2s” that have been foisted on the public over the past few years. As I mentioned, this title reminded me, both in plot and animation quality, to Lady and the Tramp II, which is a relatively tolerable movie and a pretty good single-disc DVD. The movie does have a couple of humorous spots, and the bus chase scene towards the end is visually engaging. In the end, though, the whole package just feels marginally acceptable, and it did not leave me wanting to watch it repeatedly.

The Goodies

If it is bonus material you are looking or hoping for, you should just keep looking. The behind-the-scenes “dog-umentary” is all of about seven minutes long, and only peripherally touches on the style and design of the movie. Other than that, there are a couple of music videos, a rather odd feature allowing you to explore Thunderbolt's dressing room trailer, and one of those ubiquitous set-top games. This is pretty meager material, and when compared to the Lady and the Tramp II DVD, is disappointing.

With these child-centric, DTV releases, I would rather have Disney forego cheap goodies and invest the resources in restoring old classics to DVD or developing high-quality bonus material for special editions. Music videos, a micro-documentary, and set-top games do not drive my family's DVD purchases, but even a marginal movie, such as Dinosaur, can be made more interesting and possibly worth buying on DVD with a nice set of supplemental material. Otherwise, you are simply left with a lifeless movie and a boring disc, and 101 Dalmatians II falls under this unfortunate category.

The Video, Audio and Interface

The effort Disney pours into the video and audio quality of these DTV titles boggles my mind sometimes. Here is a title that is targeted primarily at children and lacks any parental bonus material, yet 101 Dalmatians II features an anamorphic widescreen transfer, along with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1surround soundtracks. Heck, there are recent Disney DVDs of theatrical features that do not have DTS soundtracks, and this is not a movie that particularly warrants one. It is a bit confusing as to why Disney would provide the DTS track when anybody that can tell the difference between a DTS and Dolby Digital soundtrack would probably not be buying this disc because of its lack of additional features. If Disney was trying to add a feature that would draw parents towards buying this disc, I would have preferred a commentary track over the DTS, and ultimately, I just do not see the DTS soundtrack adding value to this disc.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sounds perfectly fine, and the anamorphic video looks clean and well balanced. Some of the colors are not quite as vibrant as the original 101 Dalmatians, but they are generally acceptable. Besides the confusing DTS issue and stylistic differences between the original and sequel, the audio and video are right on target, and there is not much more to say.

As for the DVD interface, Disney has been doing a pretty darn good job putting together menu systems that draw the viewer into the movie experience. This disc is no exception. The menus feature nice musical accompaniment and animation, and the screen transitions are all animated.

The Final Evaluation

As a movie, this child-targeted follow-up to the classic 101 Dalmatians is better than some of Disney's other recent sequels, but it falls well short of being comparable to the original. It is not bad, but it is not that great either. The story is so-so with a couple of good action sequences, and the animation ranges from cartoony to almost theatrical quality. Also, the DVD is pretty bare bones, primarily lacking any decent parental bonus material, but the audio and video are very acceptable. Because of its $30 suggested retail price (Disney's normal price for animated DVDs), it is a bit much for what you get. If you are curious about the movie or your children are insisting on seeing it, you may be better off renting it before plunking down your hard-earned money.

DVD FEATURES
Goodies
  • Behind the scenes "dog-umentary" (7 min.)
  • Lost in London game
  • Thunderbolt: An Inside Look
  • Two music videos
Technical Specifications

  • Region 1 encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • English (DTS 5.1)
  • French language track
  • Closed captions
  • Anamorphic widescreen, 1.66:1

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