Monday, May 31, 2021

Cruella - Disney's Latest Darling

Here's a fun puzzle: How do you retell the story of a puppy-skinning psychopath who smokes at least a pack a day for modern audiences and make the person not only relatable but likable? 

The answer: You cast Emma Stone as the puppy-skinning psychopath. 

Beware: There be spoilers ahead. 

Sympathy for the DeVil

Cruella jumps us back to the titular character's childhood where she always had a knack for misbehaving and for extreme fashion, both of which kept her in constant trouble. Called Stella by her mother, she meets her lifelong friend Anita Darling and is forced to move to London after getting expelled from her school. After some next level Disney tragedy she becomes an orphan living on the streets of London with her two new friends, Horace and Jasper, and their dogs, Buddy and Wink. They grow up as thieves with Cruella dreaming of becoming a high fashion designer. 

Stella gets her chance to work for the Baroness, the Devil Wears Prada of 1970's London fashion, played gloriously by Emma Thompson, where she excels as a beginner designer, until she finds out that her boss killed her mom. Drama ensues as Stella plots to take revenge on the evil Baroness and embrace her true Cruella self. 

You'll notice that nowhere did I mention Dalmatians. While Dalmatians, three in fact, do play a role in the plot they are not the absolute crux of the story. They seem like they would be at one point, but more on that later. The main focus of the story is on Cruella realizing that while her inner true self may not be what society accepts, it is who she truly is, and that letting her freak flag fly is the only way to live her authentic self. 

Bad Vs. Evil

The trick to making films about villains is to frame their actions as believable and relatable, and Disney tends to go with vengeance as a good motivator (Going the slow and complete destruction of a person's psyche Joker style is probably too far from Disney's family friendly label). Cruella as a character is framed here as being bad, going against the grain but having moral lines she won't cross unless absolutely necessary. 

In a brilliant piece of cinematic writing, the audience is set up to wonder just how far Disney will come to the line of making Cruella evil by ambiguously implying that she did skin a dog to make a coat. When it's revealed that she didn't and only wore a fabulously spotted coat to egg on her enemy the sense of relief is palpable. Cruella may hint at skinning an innocent doggo, but as long as she has access to a JoAnne's Fabric the act won't be necessary. 

Worth the $30? 

The big question hanging over a lot of new releases on Disney Plus are around the Premier Access price for new movies, an extra $30 to see the movie when it's released. While I can't speak for certain on Disney's last two attempts, Mulan  and Raya and the Last Dragon, I will say that Cruella was well worth the $30. Considering that we were finally able to host a watch party with friends, the cost of tickets vs the cost of Premier Access was more than even. If you're scrolling through your Disney Plus account and wondering if it's worth it, I say it is, though watch it a couple times to feel like you got your money's worth. 


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