Director: Martin Scorsese; Writer: Aaron Sorkin; Cast: Johnny Depp, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Mark Wahlberg, Jeremy Renner, Ryan Gosling, Alec Baldwin, Matthew McConaughey, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Ryan Reynolds, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, etc., Mike Tyson, Ted. Executive Producers: All the above.
So, is Martin Scorsese’s follow-up to The Wolf of Wall Street another indictment of the culture of excess or is it just another glorification of it? Well, that probably depends on whom you ask.
Walt Disney’s 101 One-Percenters, a darkly humorous, often sophomoric take-off of the classic animated feature Walt Disney’s 101 Dalmatians, stars every same actor you’ve seen in every movie every year for the last twenty years. All the actors in this film, with few exceptions, are white, male, and in the guise of the lovable black-and-white spotted puppies. Yes, even roles usually reserved for animated canines are now physically being taken up by the wealthiest one percent of Hollywood heavyweights.
Johnny Depp lends his androgynously attractive features to yet another character role, this time the evil kidnapress Cruella De Vil. Once again, Mr. Depp infuses his character with the physical spasms of not a Rolling Stone, but another rock legend: David Bowie. While this source of inspiration seems to work in certain scenes, in others, Mr. Depp comes off more like Rocky Horror’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter than Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust.
Roger and Anita, the human father and mother figures to all the puppies, are played by Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams. Mr. Cooper continues to demonstrate his dramatic—as well as comedic—range despite certain distractions: namely, Robert De Niro. While it is on one level a real treat to see Mr. De Niro finally reunited with his longtime collaborator Mr. Scorsese, it is, at the same time, disturbing to see him involved in yet another Bradley Cooper vehicle. This troublesome sign is reinforced in several of their scenes together, as Mr. De Niro’s canine character seems unable to control his urge to hump Cooper’s leg whenever they’re in the same shot. With this film under his belt, Mr. De Niro may have finally taken the crown from Michael Caine for never seeing a script he did not like. (Note: Perhaps in fear of his reputation being threatened, Mr. Caine has reportedly signed on as the butler for this movie’s sequel, Lee Daniels’s 101 One-Percenters and Their Butler.)
In another f-you to struggling actors everywhere who can never find enough roles to support an adequate living, Cruella’s two henchmen are played by Ted (of Ted fame) and former-heavyweight-boxing-champ-turned-stage-thespian, Mike Tyson. While this casting decision of pairing a stuffed animal with a convicted rapist might seem silly and even repugnant to some audiences, it is hard to deny the dramatic intensity Mr. Tyson brings to the table whenever he chews off a hunk of Mr. Ted’s ear or shoves him into the front of his trousers for firing insults at him regarding his genitalia. In fact, by the time all the puppies are rescued from the two thugs, Mr. Ted, no longer seen on screen, is only heard muttering “fuck,” “shit,” and “asshole,” underneath Mr. Tyson’s underpants.
For a reason never fully explained, the puppy played by Matthew McConaughey sits in the corner of the room for the whole film, pounding his chest awkwardly, refusing to eat, and wondering why the other puppies in the room find him utterly annoying.
Speaking of annoying, Adam Sandler, who also plays one of the puppies, strums the folk guitar and makes weird and irritating noises with his mouth in every scene until Mark Wahlberg’s tough-guy enforcer puppy, already incensed that he didn’t get to keep the talking stuffed animal who had kidnapped him and his siblings, grabs his guitar from him and bashes him over the head with it, causing Mr. Sandler’s character (further?) severe brain damage. Mr. Wahlberg’s puppy gets sent to a canine juvenile detention center for this, but then is offered probation in exchange for promising to no longer wear oversized pants that droop below his buttocks or wear a baseball cap turned to the side of his head. As the judge enforcing these conditions reminds him: “After all, your last name is Wahlberg.”
Morgan Freeman shines as the narrator of yet another film. However, there have been reports that he was cast in this role only after Samuel L. Jackson turned it down, thus altering the film’s title to Walt Disney’s 101 One-Percenters from the original Walt Disney’s Where the F**k Are My Dalmatians?
Another aspect of the film that may help or hurt its prospects is its graphic depictions of behavioral decadence. While some audiences might enjoy the vicarious indulgence of sex, drugs, and ripping people off, others might wonder how many Kibbles ‘n Bits does a dog have to snort off another dog’s butt crack until enough is enough already.
Also noteworthy about this project is Mr. Scorsese’s decision to move the London setting of the film’s predecessor to Lower Manhattan, consistent with his and Hollywood’s own history of only shooting in New York City or Los Angeles even when it is entirely unnecessary and exorbitantly expensive to do so.
With a star-studded cast so large, one would probably wonder how the sequence of actor credits would be determined. Lucky for everyone’s ego in this film, this endeavor was successfully avoided: instead of being put in order of fame or celebrity, the names of the actors appear at the beginning and end of the film in a word cloud, with no one’s name appearing larger than that of another. That said, there have been unconfirmed reports that George Clooney (who plays Pong, the father of the Dalmatian litter) snuck into Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing bay when she was not present and saw to it that his name appeared a half-millimeter larger than all the other names, in order to assure himself that he is, after all, the top dog.
Despite the humungous cast, each one of the 101 A-name stars was still paid their usual $5-25 million in compensation before any residuals. This will ensure that the Disney studio will have a justifiable excuse to not pay any crew members, production assistants, or no-name actors a reasonable compensation in the months and years ahead. Disney executives and the all the actor-executive producers involved in this film are said to believe their spending on the next private jet or residential compound will eventually trickle down to all the wannabe Hollywood stars and filmmakers who are right now waiting tables—or at least enough so that it will pay for the gas or the subway fare to make it to their next audition, anyway.
In a perhaps revealing grand finale, as the closing word clouds rumble in, the entire cast gets in the faces of all the aspiring actors at the Actors Studio who are overwhelmed with student loans, and flips them the bird—everyone in the cast except Alec Baldwin, that is, who almost indiscernibly mutters “cock-sucking maggots” under his breath while inexplicably moving his arms like John McCain.
Then Mr. Scorsese hurls a Golden Globe off screen, and all those top dogs go chasing after it.
The work of Joshua Kornreich has been published, reviewed, and discussed in various print and online literary publications, including Unsaid, Meridian, Heavy Feather Review, Hotel St. George Press, Largehearted Boy, Emerging Writers Network, The Pennsylvania Gazette, and VOX Press’s Complete with Missing Parts: Interviews with the Avant-Garde, with forthcoming appearances in Radioactive Moat, The Collagist, and Front Row Lit. His debut novel, The Boy Who Killed Caterpillars, originally published by Marick Press in 2007, will be reissued in e-book format by Dzanc Books in September 2012 as part of its rEprint Series, and his second novel, Knotty, Knotty, Knotty, will be released by The Black Mountain Press in 2014. Kornreich lives with his wife and son in New York City.