This is such a charming movie! I’m a little surprised by how much I enjoyed re-watching it, because it was never one of my favorites as a child. For one thing, there are a lot of jokes for adults that I never got when I was little. Like when Jasper and Horace are watching TV instead of skinning puppies like Cruella told them to–they’re watching a made-up show called, “What’s My Crime?” where a guest panel has to guess what crime the criminal committed. If they can’t guess right, the criminal gets a paid vacation…after he’s served his debt to society, of course. So this whole time while the cat is trying to rescue all these puppies, in the background you’re hearing things like, “If your crime wasn’t robbery, did you…Oh dear, what I mean is…Do something of a violent nature, that is…Did you do someone in?”
I have to say, though, I liked the first half of this movie better than the second, which is weird, because most of the exciting stuff happens in the second half. First off, the credits are GENIUS. Never have black spots been used so creatively. And I always liked the opening sequence where Pongo is trying to find a mate for himself and for his pet, Roger. It’s just a rule that it’s funny when people look like their pets.
Speaking of Roger, he’s kind of my new boyfriend. I never realized how adorable he is until now. And that’s kind of why I like the first half better–I wouldn’t mind watching a whole movie of Roger and Anita’s domestic adventures, with special appearances by Pongo and Perdita. And Nanny. They’re such a fun, sweet married couple. Same goes for Pongo and Perdita. It’s weird, but this movie starts out with just adults, and the adults do save the day, which usually isn’t the case in children’s media. The setting, too, makes the movie seem more grown-up. They all live in a very realistic flat in London. No magic, no castles, not even the spotless suburban setting of Lady and the Tramp. Roger and Anita aren’t that well off at first, and they lead very ordinary lives.
But trouble comes along in the shape of Cruella DeVil, puppy skinner extraordinaire. Okay, she doesn’t actually skin the puppies–she has people who do that for her. This is another one of those moments that comes across differently when you’re older. When you’re little, you’re used to all kinds of devious activity from villains. Skinning puppies is just another dastardly deed in a long line of Horrible Things Villains Do. But, I don’t know, now that I’m older, I’m just like…who DOES that? Who on earth would skin puppies and wear them??? (Apparently, the whole idea for the book that the movie is based on came from the author’s friend looking at her Dalmatians and commenting that they’d make great fur coats.) In the setting of this very unfantastical world, such an over-the-top villain scheme seems even more horrifying than usual. I mean…puppies!
Cruella is a fabulous villain, and she comes with a fabulous villain song, although in this case, she doesn’t sing it herself. I’m sad there are only two songs in the movie, because they have such a fun, jazzy feel to them, and I would’ve loved to hear more. Also interesting is that the songs are justified by the storyline–Roger’s a composer, so it’s not like in most musicals where the audience just accepts that the characters will burst into song. The characters really are bursting into song in their own reality.
Then we get to the puppies, themselves. And I mean…there are fifteen of them (at first!), so we only get bits and pieces of personality. (My favorite was always the perpetually-hungry Rolly.) With just these bits and pieces, none of the puppies are as interesting to me as the adults, human or dog. They are super cute, though. And again, the adults are the main characters of the movie, even though the puppies are infinitely more marketable. I’m a little sad when we leave Pongo and Perdita for a while to follow the Twilight Bark over to the puppies. (Also, fun fact: during the Twilight Bark, you see a bunch of cameos from Lady and the Tramp, including Peg, Max the bulldog, Jock, and…Lady and the Tramp.)
Luckily, we come back to the dog parents, who save their children with a little help from some friends. I feel like Perdita spends 70% of this movie worrying about something, which was kind of annoying to me at first, because…I get it, she’s worried about her puppies, but let’s give her some other personality trait, please? But then I felt a little better when she and Pongo fight Horace and Jasper, because girlfriend brings it alongside her husband, and how many Disney heroines actually, physically fight against a villain? Not that many.
And a happy ending for all! Even Cruella and her cohorts get by without dying or getting arrested, which kind of bugs me, because I just feel like attempted puppy murder should be punished in some way. Though, considering that Roger called Scotland Yard to help them find the missing puppies, maybe there’s some post-movie justice that goes down. Or at least, I hope so. Skinning puppies is so mean.
Favorite moment: Cruella DeVil
Because it really is a great song, and because the moment Roger walks out with that scarf wrapped dramatically around his shoulders is the moment I realized I had a big ol’ crush on him.
Next time: The Sword in the Stone!