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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.

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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  1. Baroness June 28, 2021 11:19 pm

    Cruella was awesome.Report

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

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

  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

  4. Pooja Prabhu August 25, 2021 4:13 am

    This is not a movie critique. This is expression of a biased optinion, made to raise eyebrows and cash in on the movie’s fame. The only phrase that comes to my mind is what the author must’ve thought of while writing this diaster- any publicity is good publicity.


  5. Bill August 27, 2021 10:14 pm

    Puke-inducing review. I don’t much care for this reviewer.Report

  6. Brad August 28, 2021 8:37 pm

    Poor miss Elanore can’t remove herself from virtue signaling long enough to watch one movie. The movie was fantastic showcasing how being singleminded and self absorbed can push away those that care for you and have for years. It was an excellent entry in the live action adaptations from Disney and I, along with most other people, if any actual reviews and comments are anything to go by, can’t wait until the next one comes out. I think this review should bea wake-up call to Saporta Report that not everybody can write non-opinion pieces.Report

  7. George W September 2, 2021 10:20 pm

    Often I find that critics are prone to overthinking and over analyzing. This movie was a wonderful balance if of humor and drama; a difficult thing to do. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this film. One minute we were involved in the drama of the characters, the next we were laughing. Both Thompson and Stone did a marvelous job as did many of the other supporting cast. Three and a half stars out of four!!Report

  8. Lindsay October 7, 2021 11:57 am

    Did you nod off during the movie? Cruella as an adult and a child loved dogs. She even says in the movie that she didn’t hurt any dogs… she put on an act and let people make their own assumptions. She only dressed in the Dalmatian print to allow baroness to THINK she may have hurt her dogs. I was really happy with this plot, since as a child I was scared of the character in 101 Dalmatians. I loved how this movie changed the whole motive behind Cruella and her actions and it made me look at the original movie differently! It was an act she was playing all along.Report

  9. Matthew Beyer October 8, 2021 2:31 am

    Your top statement, “Call PETA now” makes me seriously question if even watched the film at all. Never once is a dog treated cruelly. Hell the dogs are pretty much heros throughout the entire film. I get the feeling you just have some beef with Disney. I went to see Cruella with two friends of mine. We are all professional theatrical actors who go to films and then go somewhere to sit and talk about them ad nauseum. None of us were “dying” to see the film. We all had an interest and expected to enjoy it but were not expecting to be absolutely blown away by it. All three of us. The score, the soundtrack, the sets, the costumes, the absolute perfect cast. Lady, I think you need to do some serious soul searching and figure out what it is that you REALLY…really don’t care for.Report

  10. SeriousAuthor October 15, 2021 9:49 am

    I don’t think you actually WATCHED the movie, or I hardly recognize that we saw the same film based on your poorly written review. Either you are taking a kids movie too seriously, or yourself – looks like both tbh.Report

  11. Jackie October 17, 2021 7:51 pm

    I loved the movie. I especially loved that the young kids right now we’re exposed to some great 70’s rock n roll! It was a clever way to tell Cruella’s story.Report

  12. Shelly Ringgold January 19, 2022 11:15 pm

    I loved the movie. It was completely amazing.Report

  13. Laughler February 14, 2022 1:30 pm

    I am amazed how a supposed movie critic could miss the point of a movie so badly. What an embarrassment this “review” is.Report

  14. James March 6, 2022 10:09 am

    “As if anyone, including your average puppy-loving kid, cared”.

    Oh dear, and yet, look at you and all your caring. This review was clearly witted by a bitter woman who didn’t even watch the movie, and it shows.Report


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