Disney, stop with these live action remakes already! Do you honestly think that people are still going to remember these movies in the long run? Yeah, I get they’re making these movies so the company can keep the copyrights of their characters, but to what consequence? I doubt the public really appreciates what they’re churning out without any real effort; I know for a fact people from my generation absolutely hates these movies. Even if they’re cheap origin stories like Cruella, anything live action that is meant to have an affiliation with an animated classic of our youth is clearly a cash grab feeding off our nostalgia, and an insult to our childhoods.
In this version, Cruella’s real name is, “Estella,” and her iconic black and white symmetrical hairstyle is actually a birth defect… because… babies can totally be born that way. Then she’s expelled from school and taken to a seaside mansion, where she runs away after her mother is killed in the most accidentally hilarious way possible, her only friend being a puppy she found in a dumpster. She heads to London, teams up with two boys, Horace and Jasper, the latter of which is played by a Brown-skinned boy who after growing up is played by a White-skinned man, and Estella hides her hair under a red wig for the next twenty or so years, relying on pickpocketing to make her bank. She eventually assumes Cruella as an alter ego… she just has to take off the wig to reveal her natural split hair color, and bam! Nobody recognizes her! But how is that possible? She’s not Hannah Montana! She’s not even trying to disguise her voice for crying out loud!
Then she gets attention with her elaborate fashions, which doesn’t even make sense. If she can’t afford to live in a decent home, how is it Cruella can still afford to buy all these elaborate, clearly expensive fashions, including the material she uses to build these fashions? It clearly isn’t from her job as a fashion designer because there’s no way that job can pay enough to afford the crap she wears. This movie takes great joy in how detached from reality it is; one of the garments she wears is designed to be a big showstopper, as it’s a white wide overcoat that is burnt away to reveal another dress underneath. And the science of that works without burning herself or her dress underneath because? But that isn’t even the stupidest part- far from it.
And no, it doesn’t matter how cinematic it tries to be with its horribly rushed editing and awful handheld cinematography, this entertainment is still at the same level as a Disney channel sitcom with its grossly overused, “be yourself” message. Most of the film shows the mise-en-scène elements at their worst, but there is one scene that shows them at their best. In this scene, a swinging camera goes through an entire building from the roof to the basement in one continuous take. It’s a great work of cinematic wonder, and yet it also works to the effect of establishing the socioeconomic pyramid of the era, ultimately establishing what Estella has to work up to as she starts work at the bottom. If only the whole film was shot in one take like Birdman or 1917--imagine how cool that would be!
But instead, Disney creates their own version of “Taxi Driver for kids” where the antihero obtains exactly what she wants in the end without learning anything. There has been the usual running joke of dubbing this movie, “The Joker Wears Prada,” but this movie also rips off The Terminator at one point, and throws newspaper graphics on top of the image in montage. Holding all these film knockoffs together is the mechanics of a heist movie: she gives instructions to her goons on the steps they need to take to break in something, ergo, one of you distract the guard, another one of you sneak in through the air vent and tamper the electrical wiring to silence the alarms, meanwhile I enter wearing a disguise, I get the host’s attention, you arrive and nudge into her while slyly stealing the key from her wrist, and so on and so on. In addition, it’s all done with troublesome plot twists stupider than Nicolas Cage’s plan to steal the Declaration of Independence.
There are other things that can get annoying right away, particularly the excessive number of songs from the 60s and 70s, including ones from the Beatles and Nancy Sinatra. There must have been well over twenty of them from start to end! Even the design choices could be seen as rather distasteful, but then again, that was kind of the intention behind the use of fashion. There’s a surprising amount of information given about her character through the clothes she wears. Every one of her elaborate over-the-top outfits mean something, utilizing the trend of fashion as an artistic statement and self-expression. It offers more a natural appreciation of the power behind good artistic fashion design when it’s crafted by an irresistible imagination. That is, the fashions would work to their intended effect if the person wearing them had some believability. There is an attempt to make her someone anybody could empathize with, even giving her a big climactic monologue filmed in a long uninterrupted take, but it doesn’t work because Cruella only says what the audience already knows.
I hope that this all convinces you to not watch this abomination. I mean, I REALLY hope it convinces you, because I guarantee that you will become a much worse person as a result of watching Cruella. There’s nothing positive it has to say about the human condition, it doesn’t want you to consider the needs of others, it doesn’t care if you abuse your dog, it doesn’t care if you try to kill people you don’t like, and it thinks that good fashions are far more important than your own sanity.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!