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‘Cruella’ Is a Very Odd, Yet Highly Watchable Disney Departure

There will be no Emma Stone slander in this piece!

By MovieBabblePublished 3 years ago 3 min read

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who asked for a 134-minute origin story of a character who originated in a 79-minute cartoon, but alas, Cruella is here. Since the film premiered, much of the conversation has seemed to stem from a similar thought. Questions like, “why do we need this?” or, “who is this for?” have dominated the discourse. Frankly, I find that angle mostly unhelpful and counterproductive. Of course, a bloated prequel to a Disney villain may not be the most ideal way to spend one’s time, but such questions are often more revealing about the person asking them than the film itself. It’s a line of thinking that seems to suggest the person asking it has a very narrow view of what entertainment can be, and they don’t have the presence of mind to think that other people just might have a different perspective that makes something like Cruella worth watching.

I’ll admit, I’ve probably fallen back on that critique in the past, but it’s something I try to avoid and will hopefully remove entirely from my criticism moving forward. Still, Cruella is definitely a tweener, a movie that is noticeably different from the Disney norm. But tweener films are often the most interesting to discuss; they don’t fit neatly in a box. So no, I won’t attempt to tell you who exactly Cruella is for (judging by the box office receipts and word of mouth, it’s a lot of people), but I will dive into how this oddity is highly uneven yet strangely entertaining.

Disney Sure Does Love Killing Parents

However, if there’s one thing Cruella picked up from other Disney movies, it’s the desire to kill off the lead character’s parental figure in the prologue to boost their tragic backstory. Young Estella (before giving in to her evil alter ego Cruella later on) gets into a ton of fights at school while sporting half black and half white hair. It’s clear she’s a fashion genius, but Her mother Catherine (Emily Beechum) decides it’s best to take her out of school and move to the city.

But on the way, she makes a stop at an elaborate mansion during a party, insisting that Estella stays in the car while she tends to some unknown task. Of course, Estella leaves the car immediately to snoop around, and that’s when she accidentally attracts the attention of the host’s vicious dalmatians who promptly chase her through the garden outside. That’s when she sees Catherine talking with an unknown figure, who immediately calls on the dalmatians to attack Catherine. The dogs push Catherine off the cliff and into the water below. She’s dead, and now Estella is an orphan.

There are a few problems with this scene:

1. This is the kind of tragic backstory you would see in a parody of this movie. Seriously, you can’t literalize Cruella’s eventual hatred for dogs more than this.

2. The CGI work on the dalmatians rivals that of Show Dogs.

3. The slow-motion used leads to maximum cringe.

Knowing I had approximately two hours left to watch, it was at this moment I let out an audible, “OH NO!” The prologue is very bad, and this scene is the worst of it. Thankfully, the film improves greatly from there. Estella makes her way to the city by herself and gets by with the help of two thieves, Jasper and Horace (played in adult form by Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser). The trio grows up together, stealing to make a living.

At this point, Estella (now played by Emma Stone) still hopes to make it into the British fashion world, and she gets in on the ground floor as a maid at a department store, before catching the eye of The Baroness (Emma Thompson), the steely leader of the fashion business. As so many have already noted, the film then turns into Disney’s take on The Devil Wears Prada, with Cruella then sneaking out at night and taking the fashion world by storm in several grand gestures to upstage The Baroness.




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