This brief review will contain spoilers. I saw this movie over the weekend hoping for the best since I don’t agree with how Disney has been handling their solo villain origin movies and their live action adaptations. While I will not say the movie is objectively bad, I will say that Disney once again, missed their mark.
Back in February of this year, I actually wrote a small article on what I hoped this movie would deliver on. Unfortunately, my fears came true. They went and made another villain the good guy in their movie just like Maleficent, giving them a tragic backstory or reason for them to become the way that they are, only in Cruella, that moment never even came. You get a wild scene where Cruella’s (whose real name in the movie is Stella btw) mom is killed by three Dalmatians at a fashion party. Cruella later discovers that they were actually sent to attack her mother so it wasn’t because they did it for no reason. Thing is, this never made Cruella hate dogs, or Dalmatians so I’m not quite sure why something like this was even included? I feel like the makers of this movie were scared to take chances, they quite literally pair Cruella with a companion dog all throughout the movie to show how much she actually doesn’t hate dogs. So I feel like the inclusion of that scene really wasn’t necessary for what they were going for. Cruella never blamed the dogs for her mother’s death, she had blamed herself for thinking she had accidentally caused the entire chain of events to happen. So, why is this a problem? I feel like the entire characterization falls apart right at the beginning and they basically set themselves up for it with this weird inclusion into her origin story.
If you’re going to do a villain centric film, don’t hold back or shy away from that. If that’s the case and you don’t want to take any risks, then why not just make a film revolving around a “good” character? I just don’t understand why you would take a villainous character like Cruella, whose known for skinning animals, and just turn her into a mad, “I’m cool, edgy, and different no one can stop me” type of character. If anything, it reduces the character, which shouldn’t be the case since we’re given more backstory than we otherwise would’ve gotten. All we really get is someone who becomes a shitty person to her friends and gets progressively crazier in her pursuit of being the best. They actually include Jasper and Boris in this movie, and they all grow up together and these are the people she’s starts treating like shit.
Sometimes, a villain doesn’t need to be justified for being a villain. They could’ve gone all the way and shown her descent into madness which leads her into skinning animals to become the number one fashion designer, but instead, they made her into a fashion persona who is just trying to upstage the Baroness(the antagonist of the story) played by Emma Thompson. She’s at the height of the fashion industry, and she’s just a horrible person overall, and spoiler alert, she is responsible for what happened to Cruella’s mom. Yes, this part of the story is so convoluted, because you actually find out the the Baroness is actually Cruella’s biological mother. This actually brings in another weird theme into the mix. Nature vs nurture. After discovering this, Cruella feels like she was born this way, and there’s nothing her stepmother could’ve done to make her “normal.” She is similar to the Baroness but instead of changing, she accepts it. Um, ok, that’s a great family lesson there…
I’m not going to sit up here and lie and say I didn’t enjoy the movie for what it’s worth. If this movie would’ve been named any thing other than Cruella, it would’ve been 100 times better, in my opinion. Emma Stone does a great job in the role. There are some great looking sets and costume designs all throughout the movie, and the soundtrack is a jam. Although you can tell that they desperately shoehorned as much music as they could, since it was quite literally song after song after song. The movie would’ve also been better if at least 20 minutes were trimmed down because the movie felt bloated in some parts. The supporting cast was good, and there were some great scenes in the movie. I guess you can say it was a safe movie.
Overall, you get a film that is mostly all flair but with great performances and a good production design that I feel like is a huge missed opportunity. if you want a better portrayal of the Cruella De Vil character, I highly suggest the original animated movie, or better yet, the live action movie from 1996, which I believe is underrated and does a more than decent job of adapting the story into a real life screenplay. I’m not quite sure who this movie is catering too, as I don’t think kids would enjoy a movie like this. This one left me scratching my head and questioning, was this movie necessary?