Unlike Lady and the Tramp, I don’t recall ever watching 101 Dalmatians as a child. I’ve seen it a few times as an adult, most recently in an attempt to entertain Little Proclaims (an attempt that was only partially successful, but still more successful than most of my efforts to get my daughter to sit still) and I have always found it charming enough. I can certainly imagine it would be beloved by anyone who did grow up with it.
As someone who discovered it later in life though, what I enjoy most about it is the fact that it is utterly bonkers. The plot, even making allowances for the levels of suspended disbelief that one should always make available for an animated movie, is absolutely preposterous, but the movie absolutely embraces a level of surrealism that you don’t often find in Disney’s output. At one point the bad guys are watching a TV show called ‘What’s My Crime?’, a show in which a convicted criminal can win a 2-week all-expenses paid holiday if a panel of experts fail to guess their felony of choice.
Of course the most frenetic element of the film is the lead antagonist, one Cruella Deville, who to be fair never really had much of a chance at achieving sanity, when her parents opted to name her Cruella. She’s so over-the-top crazy, that I’m not sure she should work at all, but 101 Dalmatians is so ridiculous that not only does she make sense within the movie’s internal logic, she is without doubt one of the most iconic screen villains of all time.
It may all be unrefined nonsense, but it’s heartwarmingly entertaining nonsense.
Score for Christmasishness
It isn’t a Christmas movie, and aside from a final scene where we do see a Christmas tree being decorated, there are very few references to ‘the season’. But when you add that final scene to the plethora of snow that we see for the final third of the film, and the fact that it is quite a charming animated film, then I could see how it would merit a place in someone’s annual festive viewing schedule. It’s Christmas(ish) enough in my book.