Tuesday Review – Cruella (2021)

films, reviews

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I’m yet to be convinced by Disney’s plan to remake all of its animated film as live-action. At best, they can be described as fine. At worst, they’re pointless. The best by far is The Jungle Book because it was only slightly concerned with the original film. I guess Maleficent worked pretty well but I wonder how much that had to do with Angelina Jolie rather than the actual film. So, I wasn’t exactly hyped when it was announced that Cruella DeVil, first seen in 1961’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians, was getting an origin story. Or that she was going to be played by Emma Stone. Don’t get me wrong, I love Emma Stone but she’s no Glenn Close. The 1996 remake did many things wrong but casting Close as the villain was a genius stroke. I didn’t see how Stone would be able to compete and that was before I heard her dodgy accent.

I think one of the major issues with the live-action remakes is that Disney seems more concerned with sorting out insignificant plot holes than doing anything interesting with the stories. It’s what made Beauty and the Beast such a pointless affair. These films don’t exist to bring anything new to the stories but to answer questions that nobody ever asked. I mean, how many people watched On Hundred and One Dalmatians and asked, “but why does Cruella want to murder innocent puppies?” You can’t Maleficent this one. There’s no humanising a woman who wanted to skin puppies to make coats. No matter which beloved actor you get to play her.

Other questions that Cruella believes you care about include but are not limited to:

  • How did Cruella meet Horace and Jasper?
  • Where did Cruella get her wealth?
  • Why is Hell Hall called Hell Hall?
  • Where did Anita and Roger get their dogs from?

These aren’t very interesting questions and Disney’s new film doesn’t really do anything to justify making a whole film to answer them. In fact, one of the only major positives I can see in the whole thing is the wardrobe. It’s also the element that is gaining the most praise. Cruella is a fashion film and it looks glorious. All of the outfits are fantastic and I love the idea that a young Cruella was a Vivienne Westwood type. It’s brilliant. But I was waiting for more. I’m not sitting here for over 2 hours to look at pretty costumes.

When it comes to the story, there’s nothing particularly original or exciting about this story. The major twist is hardly shocking and, frankly, it’s quite boring. In a bold strategy, Disney have gone against writing something entertaining and engaging. Instead, putting two well known actors with the same first name on screen together and hoping sparks fly. This is a film that boasts big names and bold design. Take that away and what’s left? A long, self-indulgent, poorly written story that does very little for female empowerment. After all, having two women in leading roles doesn’t make this a positive step for feminism. It’s great but the two-dimensional characterisation really does push this right back down. This takes the idea of boss bitch to a ridiculous level. There’s absolutely no nuance here. Something that was at least true for Maleficent.

Cruella tries really hard to convince you that it’s exciting and energetic. There are countless chase scenes that really do nothing to advance the plot and plenty of computer wizardry. It’s all there to hide the fact that this film is kind of dull. It’s like Joker but with women and for kids. The ending is questionable in terms of consequences and it desperately tries to manufacture a mental health line to show depth. Cruella was one of Disney’s most heinous villains but there was no attempt here to criticise her lifestyle. Her indulgences and consumerism are seen as creative. She is the scrappy young thing who clawed her way up from the streets using her smarts. It doesn’t work and it dilutes the original character. This is just another Scorsese wannabe that doesn’t quite reach the mark.

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