Our review of 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure: Special Edition, published September 22nd, 2008, is also available.
Having known first-hand the pain and suffering of many direct-to-video Disney sequels, I wasn't really looking forward to seeing this one. In previous cases, story, character development, and animation quality have been carelessly overlooked in order to churn out yet another moneymaking machine for the studio. Imagine my surprise when Patch's London Adventure turned out to be not only faithful to the original classic in terms of character, look, and feel, but built upon a heartwarming story filled with charm, humor, and flawless execution by top notch voice talent.
Picking up soon after the end of the original film (One Hundred and One Dalmatians), Roger and Anita (Jodi Benson, Little Mermaid) Radcliff along with Nanny, canine parents Pongo and Perdie, and their 99 pups are preparing to move from the confines of their London flat to their new Dalmatian Plantation in the country. Of course, with 99 siblings, one of them is bound to wind up at the bottom of the food chain. In this case, it's Patch (Bobby Lockwood)—the shy, sensitive, television obsessed runt of the litter. It's bad enough his siblings overlook him, but his parents are so preoccupied keeping track of the others they ignore his pleas to see TV star Thunderbolt (Barry Bostwick, Rocky Horror Picture Show) when he visits London—the same day as the big move. A dejected and disheartened Patch sulks off into the pantry and falls asleep inside an empty bag of Kanine Krunchies. Borrowing a plot device from Home Alone, Patch awakens to find his family has packed up and moved to the country without him. On his own, Patch follows the Kanine Krunchies truck into the heart of London to see his hero Thunderbolt. As it turns out, Thunderbolt is nothing more than a ham actor whose sidekick Lil' Lightning (Jason Alexander, Seinfeld) is plotting to oust the star and take over the show. Meanwhile, on probation for her dognapping charge, a despondent Cruella De Vil (Susan Blakeslee, Tarzan) is drawn into a local art gallery where she is re-energized by a painting featuring a solitary black spot on white canvas. The artist, Lars (Martin Short, Father of the Bride) is captivated by Cruella and agrees to do a commissioned painting for her, if she will serve as his muse. Their work together sends Cruella spiraling down into a Dalmatian obsessed frenzy. Discovering a picture of Thunderbolt and Patch (with the address of the farm on his dog tag) on the cover of the Daily News, Cruella bails Horace and Jasper out of prison and sets out to abduct the puppies once again. It's up to Patch and Thunderbolt to become real heroes, rescue the puppies, and put Cruella back behind bars where she belongs.
Most Disney sequel projects have been created and managed by the Television Animation division. Patch's London Adventure is yet another in a long list of such titles, with one exception. The Disney Japan team handled the animation duties on this film—and it shows. Under the guiding hand of art director Bill Perkins (Shrek), the Japan team faithfully recreates the pencil/ink over watercolor technique of Disney legend Ken Anderson's original production design. The team beautifully renders some of London's greatest sites, from Buckingham Palace and the Tower Bridge to Piccadilly Circus and Hyde Park. Even the CGI components of the film (e.g. the bus chase) blend almost seamlessly into the stylized backgrounds. From the opening Chuck Jones-esque title sequence through the closing credits, Patch's London Adventure retains the charm and flair of its predecessor. But style alone cannot carry a film. Storytellers Garrett Schiff, Dan Root, Jim Kammerud, and Brian Smith go the distance in laying out an engaging plot that doesn't simply rehash the original or fall prey to tired Disney formula. From Cruella's resurgence to the introduction of Lars, Thunderbolt, and Lightning, and Patch's coming of age, the audience honestly connects with these characters. It helps when the talent involved in bringing these characters to life does so with vim and verve. Barry Bostwick is brilliant as the clueless Thunderbolt whose heart is always in the right place but whose brain is on permanent vacation. Jason Alexander draws inspiration from Wayne Knight's Newman character (Seinfeld) for the duplicitous runt, Lil' Lightning. Martin Short channels Mike Myers' Sprockets character Dieter in his portrayal of Lars, the beatnik artist. Also give credit to Susan Blakeslee for stepping into the shoes of the late Betty Lou Gerson to breathe new life into one of Disney's greatest villainesses, Cruella De Vil. Finally, kudos to newcomer Bobby Lockwood whose performance as Patch brings life and depth to an otherwise two-dimensional character.
101 Dalmatians II—Patch's London Adventure is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. This exceptional print showcases the artistry of the Disney Japan team's work with no visible defects. The colors pop and the blacks are rock solid. The Dolby 5.1 and DTS audio tracks are of the highest quality, although as one might expect the surround speakers are only used in the more public scenes. Richard Gibbs playful score comes through splendidly, underscoring new songs by Dean Pitchford and Randy Rogel. As is the case with most direct-to-video Disney releases, this one is stocked with bonus features. The seven minute "Dog-umentary" is played for laughs as directors Jim Kammerud and Brian Smith take a host of hounds on a behind-the-scenes tour. "Lost in London" is an interactive trivia game testing your knowledge of the city and its legendary attractions. "Thunderbolt: An Inside Look" is a treat for the kids, giving them an opportunity to explore the wonder dog's trailer, complete with fan mail, stories, bloopers, television commercials, and more. Two music videos are included—Will Young's jazzy "Try Again" and LMNT's radio pop version of "You're the One." Rounding out the disc is a bevy of studio trailers including sneak peeks at the theatrical releases Piglet's Big Movie and Pixar's Finding Nemo, as well as DVD releases of Inspector Gadget 2, Belle's Magical World, Milo's Return, Treasure Planet, and The Lion King: Platinum Edition with a new animated sequence "The Morning Report" taken from the Broadway show.
It seems 101 Dalmatians II—Patch's London Adventure is the exception to the rule. A direct to video release worthy of being purchased and stored next to the best of Disney's classic animated features. Disney is hereby released on its own recognizance. This court hopes this film is a beginning of a trend and not a one-time fluke. Case dismissed!
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