Hey 3.5 readers. Your old pal BQB here. Just wanted you to know I just finished my screenplay for “Jeff!” a villain origin story about the fun adventures that Jeffrey Dahmer went on as a kid. What? No one wants to see a movie that would glorify a man who kidnapped and cannibalized a bunch of poor unsuspecting victims? Got it. That makes sense.
Whew. Good thing you warned me, 3.5 readers. I would have been very embarrassed if that movie had been made. But it’s not like Hollywood would have made such drek anyway, right? I mean, it’s not like they once greenlit a trio of films about the childhood and early adulthood of the man who would go on to be Space Hitler, the idea being that sure, he killed a lot of people but hey, he used to be an adorable little pod racer and what? They made it. Yeesh.
OK but surely, Hollywood would NEVER and I mean NEVER make a movie that glorifies a villainess who runs around trying to kidnap a bunch of Dalmations so she can skin them and turn their hides into coats and fashion accessories and wait…they’re doing it? THEY ALREADY DID IT?
Huh. OK then. BQB here with a review.
Part of me gets why Disney makes movies like this. They have a great big catalog of characters that fans love and the more media they make about these characters, the happier the funs are and besides, if they don’ t keep whipping out schlock based on their IP, then some other rival studio might make something similar. No, some other studio couldn’t make their own film about Cruella, but give Cruella enough time in the vault and out of the public’s eye and some other studio might just get away with making a film about their own villainous fashionista and we can’t have that now, can we?
Part of me doesn’t get it. Villains are bad and to make movies about their early years, the ones that molded them into the evildoers they are today seems to send the wrong message. I suppose it’s silly to read too much into it, though these films sort of suggest that evil adults are allowed to justify their misdeeds of the present as long as they had rough childhoods in the past and if that’s true, then I guess we all get away with being supervillains, don’t we?
At least in Maleficient (spoiler alert) we learn that we’ve been misunderstanding Disney’s favorite witch and secretly, she was trying to protect the princess all along. DOUBLE SPOILER ALERT – here in Cruella, we learn that Cruella doesn’t really have a penchant for turning puppies into coats (her villainous behavior is an act to attract publicity for her fashion label). Even so, if you watch the original 101 Dalmatian films, it doesn’t seem like an act. It seems like she really wants those puppies to become designer handbags.
But movies are all about the suspension of disbelief I suppose.
The plot? It’s a battle of the Emmas as Emma Stone plays the titular Cruella, born Stella to a kind mother who tries her best to parent Stella out of her evil ways. When said mother dies tragically, young Stella is orphaned and hits the streets of London, meeting the dudes who would become her henchmen, the trio becoming grifters and living off the spoils of trickery, fraud and petty crime.
Eventually, Stella is taken under the wing of London’s then leading fashionista, The Baroness (Emma Thompson), and it seems like all of Stella’s dress designing dreams will come true until she learns that the Baroness is actually a horrible person whose comeuppance is due. Enter Cruella, Stella’s secret (and eventually, only) identity who lives to upstage the Baroness at every fashion show at every turn.
Were there a lot of people clamoring for what ultimately boils down to a Disneyfied version of The Devil Wears Prada? Probably not and there’s the problem with this film. Most of these Disney flicks depend on cute animals. Readers, I don’t know if you are aware of this, but kids really like cute animals. Adults like cute animals too but are savvy enough to understand that cute animals poop and pee and love to chow down on expensive furniture and so on.
In other words, the main selling point of 101 Dalmations were, you guessed it, all the adorable puppies. Dogs are part of the act here, but not as prominently. If you were hoping for lots of cute canines in every frame, you’ll be disappointed. The point of Cruella was to just put the puppies in peril so you, the viewer, end up with a better appreciation for the puppies upon their inevitable rescue…so take away the puppies and you’re left with…dueling fashionistas? Yes, I know. Every kid is dying to rush out and see movies about fashionistas.
I do have to give the movie points for great costumes, some funny moments, and a fantastic soundtrack, basically a sampler of 1960s and 70s counterculture songs. The film spans both decades, from Cruella’s 1960s youth to her young adulthood in the 1970s as sort of a punk rock type figure. Yes, the great irony of Disney making a punk-ish, counter-culture film.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy but I’m not sure who the movie is for. Adults who are into fashion have more choices for media about fashion. Kids who love puppies have more choices when it comes to movies that feature puppies. That’s mainly my chief complaint about this movie – it needed more puppies. Otherwise, Emma Stone provides a fabulous Cruella impersonation.
Is it worth the $30 rental fee on Disney Plus? Unless you’re really dying to find out how Cruella became Cruella, I’d say you could wait until this one’s streaming for free or at least for the regular Disney Plus subscription price.