Small children should be enchanted by the animated hijinks of “101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure,” one of the better Disney-produced direct-to-video sequels. Modestly clever trifle is also sufficiently sprightly to entertain grateful parents — and may even please many childless adults with fond memories of the original 1961 cartoon feature.
Apparently set just a few months after events detailed in “101 Dalmatians” — clothes, autos and black-and-white TVs suggest an early ’60s timeframe — vidpic reintroduces canine mates Pongo (voiced by Samuel West) and Perdita (Kath Soucie), proud parents of a family so extended that sequel begins with dog owners Roger (Tim Bentinck) and Anita (Disney mainstay Jodi Benson) planning relocation from London to country home, to provide adequate room for the canine couple, their yelping offspring and the dozens of other puppies freed from wicked Cruella de Vil (Susanne Blakeslee) at the end of the 1961 opus.
During the move, however, scrappy puppy Patch (Bobby Lockwood) is inadvertently left behind. So the pooch hightails it to a TV audition, hoping to land a guestar gig alongside his idol Thunderbolt (Barry Bostwick), a Rin Tin Tin-like superstar.
Complications arise as Thunderbolt hears he’s being written out of his own show — the false rumors spread by Lightning (Jason Alexander), Thunderbolt’s ambitious sidekick. When Patch’s many siblings are kidnapped once again by an incorrigible Cruella, Thunderbolt seizes the opportunity to gain publicity as a real-life hero. Ultimately, however, it’s up to Patch to mastermind a great escape.
Animation directors Hiroshi Kawamata and Kenichi Tsuchiya meticulously mimic the appealingly casual rough-sketch look of the 1961 “101 Dalmatians,” while writer-directors Jim Kammerud and Brian Smith deftly recycle most of the original pic’s major and minor characters. Cruella de Vil once again comes off as the campiest, wiggiest villainess in the Disney pantheon, and she’s amusingly reunited with bungling henchmen Horace (Maurice LaMarche) and Jasper (Jeff Bennett).
Only new character of note is Lars (Martin Short), an affected avant-garde artist who appears at least partially inspired by Mike Myers’ “Sprockets” persona. Grown-up viewers probably will laugh louder than moppets as Lars is unaccountably drawn to Cruella as a muse and possible sweetheart. When she cruelly disparages his work, he wails: “Your harsh words strike me like blows from the fists of a large dockworker!”