‘Cruella’ review: Oh how Cruel Cruella is not

Photo by inspiredbythemuse on Pixabay

It is sometimes hard to believe that Disney created a villain that kills dogs to skin for their fur coats. Then again she is one of the most popular villains in Disney canon, giving reason to why she now has her own live-action origin story. Cruella De Vil as we all know her is the titular villain in “101 Dalmatians” which is where her cruelty and malice first graced audiences’ eyes. 

Through the years she has been brought to the big screen through a number of acclaimed actresses, and now she has her own story to tell with Emma Stone as the lead. When it comes to Disney live-action, many of their stories try to recreate the magic of the original, while also developing a new sense of authenticity for the characters.

The archetypal aspects of Cruella that make her such a fascinating villain are the completely deranged notions she has towards the sweetest animals on the earth. However, with most Disney films reforming their content to suit all audiences, the evil nature of Cruella would make for one very somber film that would not necessarily align with Disney’s brand.

It is within this aspect of Cruella being too dark for her own film that Disney completely ruins the iconic character. Cruella has such malicious undertones and motives that a dark and grittier film resembling 2019’s “Joker” would have amassed widespread acclaim for the character. Instead, Disney completely subverts any evil efforts from Cruella as a joking matter spawning from a multiple personality disorder and circumvents any bad judgment towards the vengeance of her dead mother. 

Disney, however, does do a wonderful job at making the audience truly root for Cruella even though she turns out to be the evilest of them all. The film does this by creating an antagonist in her life who happens to be Cruella’s mother, Baroness (Emma Thompson). The good versus evil relationship between the two characters sets up the entire dramatic element within the plot and gives rise to Cruella’s evil nature that we later come to know and fear in “101 Dalmatians”.

I personally had to come to the understanding that this film is a Disney production and needs to be likable by all age groups, but I cannot help but wonder how great this movie would have been if the darker side of the character was explored more. Instead, Cruella was turned into a fashion icon that starts a revolution through her creativity. 

“Cruella” is a dark and evil film meant for children, with emphasis on children. The movie takes no actual liberties at venturing into the depths of Cruella’s psychotic mindset but instead focuses on her love for fashion and design, making for a beloved Disney film that pays no homage towards an iconic character.