Disney: ‘Cruella’ Review

Screenshot of Emma Stone as Cruella de Vil in the ‘Cruella’ trailer. Copyright goes to The Walt Disney Company.

Hey! Hallie here!

I watched ‘Cruella’ tonight and like a lot of people who have been watching it recently, I have some thoughts. First off, I want to say that a lot of people are pre-judging this film for one particular part of the plot that occurs early in the movie. In case you want to go into this movie completely blind, I’ll put my SPOILER warning right here because I’m also going to talk about that part of the plot now. Now that that’s out of the way, yes, Cruella’s mother is kind of killed by Dalmatians. And yes, this is completely unnecessary. But it also isn’t as bad as you think it is. It doesn’t cause Dalmatian-related trauma that is supposed to explain Cruella’s dislike of Dalmatians and the Dalmatians aren’t even blamed for the death. If this part of the plot sounds so ridiculous to you that you have decided not to watch the movie, I’d suggest you reconsider. This movie actually isn’t all too bad. All things considered, it’s pretty good. It’s definitely not a perfect film. I do have some problems with it. But I enjoyed the experience overall. Let’s get into what exactly the movie did well and where it started to stumble.

The Kindnesses:

Cruella: Emma Stone was brilliant as Cruella and Cruella herself was simply a fun character. The background introduced for her was easy to get behind. Of course she was a bold child who longed to be a fashion designer. Her mother’s death may have been a bit unnecessary, but her introduction to Jasper and Horace, and thusly a life of crime, explained how Cruella so easily slides into the criminal world on her days off in the original movie. I also loved the reveal that Cruella can’t actually drive. This reveal was probably my favorite tie-in to ‘101 Dalmatians’. But my favorite thing about this character was the switch between Estella and Cruella. From her childhood we can see her mother scolding her for letting “Cruella” out. So much so that she had Estella refer to Cruella as a different person from herself. And throughout most of her life Estella suppresses that part of her, even while committing crimes, and remains an understated and kind person. But as she is pulled into the fashion world she begins to see the value in expressing herself more. Not to mention she discovers that Baroness called the Dalmatians to kill Estella’s mother, making Baroness her murderer. As she’s swept up in creating her own designs to bring Baroness down and claim her revenge, she embraces Cruella as her true personality. And then she discovers that Baroness is actually her mother and the woman who raised her, though well intentioned, forced Cruella to suppress that side of herself because it was too much like Baroness. After this we see Cruella fully embrace herself, admitting that she still loves the mother who raised her despite the poor decisions she made. In the end, Cruella even buries Estella as if she was a completely different person. The commentary in this about embracing yourself as you are was incredibly well done.

Horace and Jasper: Horace serves a mostly comedic purpose, but it isn’t unwelcome. He’s the least observant of the group, but he’s quite a bit more criminal than Jasper. He’s always looking for an angle to benefit the group, even when there isn’t one to be seen. But his poor observational skills are still quite endearing and his love of dogs is adorable. Jasper in particular is given a likable, fully-fleshed out personality. Where Horace can be a bit one-track-minded, Jasper is extremely observant and caring. He’s the one who arranges for Cruella to get her first job in the fashion industry and he always knows exactly what to do when she’s upset. He’s also the first to notice that she’s changing when she starts to embrace her true personality. I really enjoyed these two. Neither felt like unnecessary characters and it was easy to believe how close they were to Cruella.

Anita: Anita isn’t in much of the movie, but she’s extremely likable in what we do see. She’s skeptical of Cruella, but she does help her out and her writing is seen to be a powerful force in the fashion world. She also isn’t a pushover. She doesn’t bend to Baroness simply because of an insulting comment and she’s never intimidated by Cruella. She’s just a badass.

The Cruelties:

Cruella: Here she is again. While I did like most of her character, I would like to point out that this character is extremely inconsistent. When Cruella first spirals down the path into vengeance, she’s confronted by Jasper multiple times for treating him and Horace poorly. At one point the two refuse to work with her any further, prompting her to apologize to them for going overboard and accept them as family. But then she goes back to doing what she did before, this time without complaint from either party. And she continues to act vain and treat them poorly in ‘101 Dalmatians’. So why write in remorse for the way she’s acting if it doesn’t make sense for the way she acts in the future? Similarly, anytime the movie leans towards a darker route for Cruella, one that would align with her decision to skin and wear puppies, the movie pulls back. At one point newspapers report that she might have used real Dalmatians for a dress, but she reveals this isn’t the case. She even likes dogs. Throughout the entire movie she bonds with her childhood dog and the dog Jasper and Horace own, and she later comes into possession of the Dalmatians Baroness owned without finding fault in them. Because yes, her mother died by Dalmatian and that’s dumb, but when Cruella learns that Baroness is behind the death, she doesn’t blame the Dalmatians. She even sends Roger and Anita Pongo and Perdita as puppies at the end of the movie. Why would she do that if she was just going to skin them later? This Cruella isn’t consistent with the Cruella in the original movie, and she isn’t consistent throughout this movie, either. The writers never decided how cruel they actually wanted to make her.

Roger: Roger is weird here. He’s portrayed as mopey and incompetent for the entire movie, and his dislike of Cruella is all chalked up to her being inadvertently responsible for Baroness firing him. So instead of Roger rightfully disliking Cruella because she’s an awful person, now Roger is just petty. Roger deserves better.

Artie: Disney always fumbles with LGBTQ+ characters. And here’s yet another one who does nothing and doesn’t even actually admit he’s gay. He looks great, but that doesn’t disguise the fact that Disney just keeps messing up their attempts at representation.

(The) Baroness: I found it ironic that this movie, while attempting to give an evil character an understandable backstory, gave her a villain that is evil just for the sake of being evil. Going into this movie fans were skeptical that Cruella could be humanized because of her decision to skin and wear puppies. This movie managed to simultaneously stumble over this issue and give us a villain who also is willing to unnecessarily resort to murder to get what she wants. Baroness feels like a walking representation of why this movie wasn’t actually necessary. Because what’s the point of making a movie like this if you aren’t going to address the idea that all villains have a reason for what they do?

Ok, so I put more in the Cruelties section than the Kindnesses one. But I did really like this movie! Overall I felt like it was a really good time. The plot was good, the characters were enjoyable, and even the issues I had with it were swept under the spectacle of it all. Add in some amazing performances and I’d absolutely watch this again. Just maybe don’t watch ‘101 Dalmatians’ with this. It’s easier to ignore the inconsistencies that way.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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