‘Cruella’ disappoints

Film lacks originality, consistency


Used with permission from Disney.

Maren Wilsey

I went into ‘Cruella’ with low expectations. How can you give a redeemable backstory to a character whose defining trait is murdering puppies? Unfortunately, those low expectations were met. 


The movie tells the backstory of the infamous Cruella De Vil, known for her hatred of dalmatians. We’re introduced to a young, eccentric Estella whose mother is killed after a trio of vicious dalmatians shove her off a cliff at a glamorous fashion show. Fast forward and Estella is all grown up and working at a prestigious fashion company in London. Her talents are quickly recognized by the boss, the Miranda Priestly-like Baroness von Hellman. Estella discovers a connection between the Baroness and her mothers death and swears her revenge. 


While the movie wasn’t entirely unenjoyable, it felt messy and inconsistent compared to the original “101 Dalmatians”. My biggest issue with the film was the redemption arc they gave Cruella/Estella. The writers spend nearly the whole movie building up to a climax that never happens. I’m not necessarily surprised with the direction they took, as some of the things they alluded to were a bit dark for Disney, but it still feels inconsistent to the character they’ve spent the whole movie creating.


Disney needs to realize that we don’t need a sympathetic backstory for every villain. Some — especially the ones that murder puppies — are just evil and that’s all we need to know.


Another inconsistency I was bothered by was, once again, the redemption arc. Throughout the film, it felt like the writers couldn’t decide if we were supposed to sympathize with Cruella or dislike her, and then finally made up their minds within the last 20 minutes. She used her friends to get what she wanted, and proceeded to treat them terribly the whole time though this behavior is poorly justified later in the film, with a flimsy excuse: her real mother is the evil baroness. She never even apologized for what she did to her friends, and they went and helped her anyway. 


Speaking of this mother-daughter reveal, the whole movie seemed full of cliches. I felt like I’d seen everything before it happened. It would be one thing if it was limited to being reminiscent of “The Devil Wears Prada” — which it was — but when the whole movie does this over and over, it’s just too much. At one point they decide to infiltrate a gala to steal a necklace, and it was almost like I was rewatching the exact plot of “Ocean’s 8”, right down to their shared focus of the security camera blindspots.


The film ends with her figuratively killing her former self to fully transform from Estella to Cruella, and at that point I’d had enough. If the movie hadn’t been basically over I might not have been able to keep going. I’m not normally bothered by cliches either, but there was such a high concentration in such a short time span, it was too much for even me to bear.


My final comment was in regards to the music. To put it simply, there was just too much. The producers must have spent almost all of the budget just to get the copyrights for the songs. Once again, this would have been fine if it wasn’t so oversaturated. Every scene didn’t need it’s own blaring rock song to accompany it, as it seemed like this was a part of their effort to create an overall aesthetic rather than a quality movie. 


If half the budget was spent on music copyrights, I can only assume the other half was spent on the costumes. In this case, however, I’m not complaining. In a movie about fashion, the costumes should be as extravagant as possible and this was the one area that did not disappoint. 


Obviously, it wasn’t all bad. I think if I hadn’t been watching with the intention of reviewing it, I would have enjoyed it more. There were a few nods to the original movie that did stay consistent, such as Cruella’s terrible driving. I also thought the visual aesthetic of the film was fun to watch. I’m excluding the fact that they used CGI to make the dogs in this statement, of course.


In conclusion, I wouldn’t say it was a terrible movie — if you’re looking for a lighthearted way to kill two hours, look no further. If you’re looking for anything more than that though, I would suggest you steer clear. 


“Cruella”: ★★☆☆☆