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Columns Eleanor Ringel Cater

‘Cruella’ – a nauseating plot prequel to ‘101 Dalmatians’

"Cruella" movie poster

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Somebody call PETA now.

“Cruella” is pure putrid poison, a camped-up extravaganza disguised as harmless kiddie crud.

I guess you could say I didn’t much care for it.

Disney has been “live-actioning” its treasure trove of animated classics for several years now. Some are harmless (“Beauty and the Beast”). Some are so-so (“Cinderella”). Some are superfluous (“The Lion King”). Some are repulsive (“Dumbo”). One was actually brilliant (“The Jungle Book”).

A scene from the “Cruella” movie

Like “Maleficent” (so-so), “Cruella” is a prequel of sorts. It purports to show us how the puppy-skinning madwoman of “101 Dalmatians” got that way. As if anyone, including your average puppy-loving kid, cared.

Well, Disney couldn’t live-action “101 Dalmatians” because they’d already done that. Twice (with a pre-twerking Glenn Close).

So, the greedy stone-hearted execs at Disney came up with what is known in the industry as an origin story. Cruella – she of the memorably bifurcated hair and razor-edged cheekbones – was once just a sweet orphan in the punk-rock ‘70s that was London. When she was still a kid (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland), her mum was killed by a trio of mean-tempered Dalmatians belonging to a heartless fashion guru so famous she’s known as the Baroness (Emma Thompson).

After a phase as a slippery street-smart urchin, the fashion-mad Cruella (Emma Stone) scores an apprenticeship with the very same Baroness. And ultimately beats her at her own game (translation: the film becomes a skeletal clothes-horse on which to hang loads of outrageous glam-rock fashion).

“Cruella” movie poster

What all this has to do with becoming a puppy-hating hag, I’m still not sure. And let’s not forget – please – the original Cruella didn’t just dislike puppies; she wanted to kill them, skin them and turn their distinctively spotted coats into a fashion statement.

That’s the nauseating plot point beneath “Cruella’s” over-designed posturing that all the imaginative design in the world can’t make up for it. It’s like finding out that David Bowie liked to suck the marrow from kitten bones. That the director is Craig Gillespie, who made the darkly entertaining “I, Tonya,” only adds to the disappointment.

Except, “disappointment” isn’t nearly a strong enough word. Disgust is closer.  Or maybe puke-inducing. Or…

As I said, I didn’t much care for the movie.

“Curella” currently is in theaters and is available on demand.

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Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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3 Comments

  1. Baroness June 28, 2021 11:19 pm

    Cruella was awesome.Report

    Reply
  2. Luis A Chavez July 13, 2021 9:25 am

    What a poorly substantiated critique. This barely rises above opinion. Do better, hun.Report

    Reply
  3. H July 24, 2021 7:48 pm

    Could not disagree more. Thoroughly enjoyed Don’t know why PETA would be upset. We are animal lovers and there was no cruelty towards the animals. Totally an adult movie we would watch again.Report

    Reply

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