Directed by Craig Gillespie
Quick synopsis… In this live-action origin story based on the Disney classic “101 Dalmatians,” young Cruella de Vil is working as a fashion designer in 1970s London — until an obsession with dog skins leads her astray.
Let’s hear it for cinemas reopening!
In my area, the AMC theaters have been open since the fall (I think). I know they were doing the special thing where individuals or groups could rent out a theater for something like $100 and you could have a private viewing for a dozen or so people. That’s how I saw Wonder Woman 1984 on the big screen.
What’s stopped me from seeing movies in the theater from then until now? Look, no offense to the good people at the AMC theaters, but those buildings are just this side of garbage. They’re the theaters that were a big deal in the 80s, when multiplexes were just starting to be the big thing. None of my local AMCs have seen an update to their buildings since the 90s, back when General Cinemas was still in charge.
So I’ve been waiting for our other local cinema, run by Regal, to reopen. I’m no gonna lie, that place hasn’t seen much of an update since it was first built in the early 2000s, either. At least they gave it a fresh coat of paint just before COVID sat in.
What really gets me into the Regal cinema, though, is the Regal Unlimited subscription. No, this isn’t a commercial for Regal and, no, they are not a sponsor. But be sure and subscribe and smash that like button before you leave! Wait… I’m not on YouTube…
Anyway, for the uninitiated, Regal Unlimited is the deal where I pay $20ish a month and get to see as many movies as I want. Kind of like MoviePass used to be. But with a more sustainable business model. I assume.
Mom and I both have the unlimited deal, so I asked if she’d like to see a movie now that our Regal is back open. Cruella was not my first choice. But Mom has yet to see A Quiet Place, so that sequel was out. And she’s only seen the first two Saw films, so Spiral wasn’t really an option. Cruella it is…
This is one of those movies that I’m not sure anyone really asked for, like Solo: A Star Wars Story. But, like Solo, I found it to be entertaining nonetheless. I mean Emma Stone is generally great, as is Emma Thompson. Put two Emmas on screen together and it was something to see.
As with most unnecessary origins, we got to see why Stone’s character came to be known as Cruella de Vil, as she was once introduced in the original 101 Dalmatians so many decades ago. We are also given her introduction to Horace and Jasper, her two henchmen from the animated classic.
As a child, she has a bit of a mean streak, causing her mother to remind her that her name is Estella, not Cruella. But that mean streak gets her kicked out of school, forcing her single mom to relocate them to London. But when she stops on the way to request aid from an unknown friend, Estella tragically witnesses her mother’s accidental death when she falls off a seaside cliff.
She makes it to London and quickly joins up with Jasper and Horace, a pair of orphans who agree to take Estella in. Together, they become a trio of thieves who do fairly well for themselves. But Estella has aspirations of becoming a fashion designer, which eventually leads her to employment with Emma Thompson’s Baroness, who is apparently the name in fashion in 1970s London.
It isn’t long before Estella discovers something about the Baroness that brings Cruella to the surface of her personality, leading to hijinks and shenanigans all over London. That’s all I’ll say because I really don’t want to spoil anything.
Like I said, I found the movie entertaining if altogether pointless. I wouldn’t consider Cruella to fall into the same category of live-action remakes that Disney is so fond of these days. But it definitely takes a page or two from Maleficent, which gave an emotional origin story to Sleeping Beauty‘s timeless villain.
I have no problem with a movie giving us a sympathetic villain. I think the MCU did a great job with Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Not that I was pulling for Thanos to get his hands on all the Infinity Stones and wipe out half the universe. But I feel the audience certainly felt the weight of all that Thanos was doing and the sacrifices he felt he was making to achieve his ultimate goal.
I do have problem with going back and taking established villains and changing up their stories so that they become the ultimate protagonist of the story. I know… every good villain would believe that he or she was actually the hero. That’s how it is for Lex Luthor, for sure. But I look at Joker and that was a film that gave us an interesting take on a villain’s origin but it really didn’t make us look at the Joker as though he was a hero. The audience can feel sorry for Arthur Fleck’s circumstances and mental illness, but he is in no way the good guy.
By the end of Maleficent and Cruella, the audience is pulling for the villain because they have been transformed into a misunderstood hero. This time around, Disney took a woman who wanted to kill and skin 101 Dalmatians just to make a coat. That’s sick and twisted and probably wouldn’t fly in an animated movie villain today. It’s very likely that 21st century parents would consider that way too dark and would refuse to expose their children to that.
Something worth noting about Cruella is the soundtrack. This movie had more needle drops than both Guardians of the Galaxy films. Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration. Probably. But I do wonder how much money Disney had to shell out for the sheer amount of great songs played throughout the movie. Every time there was a scene change… new song. But with that great soundtrack, I did have a logic problem.
The vast majority of the movie takes place in the 1970s, as I mentioned above. But there were definitely more than a couple of songs from the 80s thrown in there. I’m sorry, but I don’t care how incredible those songs may have been or how well they would have fit the tone of a given scene. I cannot stand that kind of anachronistic mistake.
Wait… don’t jump on me for not complaining about the soundtrack to A Knight’s Tale. That is completely different as it takes place in the dark ages and it was a creative choice to use modern music. If Cruella had pulled a Great Gatsby and included a soundtrack exclusively featuring 21st century music, that would have been fine. But Cruella was using songs of the era in which it took place then randomly threw in a song from five years later in history.
I know I’m being picky. It just bothers me.
But enough about what I thought. Have you seen Cruella? What did you think? Are you venturing out to the cinemas yet? What upcoming release will finally tempt you to return to the theater? Let me know in the comments!