(Very minor spoilers for the first 10mins)
Have you seen the meme about Cruella? The one that says ‘Turns out dalmatians killed Cruella’s parents, how are they so obvious, why am I not a scriptwriter lol’? Let me be 100% clear: none of these people have watched Cruella. Block them on sight.
These people have gone for a cheap gag, for the retweets. Never mind that Cruella itself never sinks to their level. Never mind that it’s a delightful reworlding, full of wit and craft. Never mind the hard work that bursts from its every frame. Never mind that it’s barely about bloody dalmatians. No, these people are connoisseurs of the arts, don’t you know. They’ve memorised tvtropes.org. They don’t have to spend two hours actually engaging with something to know it’s beneath them. I’m glad they’ve been able to signal their superiority and establish standing in their apparently-terrible social circles. They’ve got what they wanted. Now let’s ignore them and speak of things that actually make the world better.
You might indeed wonder how or why you would make a prequel about one of the most properly-evil villains in Disney history. I mean, she tries to kill 101 dogs. Dogs. She wants to kill dogs. This is a thought crime in all civilised countries. She doesn’t even come good at the end. We can all agree there is no redemption here, so are they really going to try and make her a sympathetic character? This is surely unconscionable.
I won’t spoil the plot. I will just say this: they have thought of that.
Cruella knows the story it wants to tell, and goes about it with professional care. There is *work* here. It feels rich. Almost every moment has an insight, or a progression, or a nod, or a spark of the unexpected. Every shot is frameable, every twist a jigsaw piece, every set months in the building, many lines wittier than they could have got away with. And its world is a swirl of impossible one-shot-steadicam dances.
Indeed, its visual style reaches out of the screen and insists on your attention. It successfully builds a large world with a coherent feel – something that’s especially tricky as it needs to make internal sense even when it shouldn’t. The cars are from the ’50s and the security cameras are very not. Does this matter? I didn’t mind, and still wanted to live there.
I liked that the characters weren’t stupid. The bumbling comedy sidekicks do not, in fact, bumble. The fashion people are not weighed down by luvvie. The dogs are clever, but not magic. The security guards are competent, and have to be defeated by cunning rather than slapstick. And the set pieces are spectacular, extravagant, and occasionally mad…but not silly. They tread the fine line between fun and ridiculous with a delicate style.
And the much-maligned plot didn’t go where I expected. It knew what it was doing. Every time I thought it was about to be a little too convenient, there was a reason. My prevailing reaction was ‘huh, clever’.
I enjoy anything full of inbetween moments, too. Half-second visual gags. Neat turns of phrase. Wit from unexpected quarters. Emma Thompson being Emma Thompson. There was no plot reason to go to the effort of Emma Stone stealing a postal bike rather than a regular bike, but it meant she got to ride over a stormy London bridge with envelopes flying in her wake. Just for a couple of seconds. They put in *so much effort*. Like I said, craft.
I suspect you can appreciate it from a fashion perspective too, although this is rather outside my area. But also if you finished The Devil Wears Prada feeling that these awful people did not get sufficient comeuppance, there is comeuppance to be found here.
I’m not saying it’s perfect. You could pick things out, if you wanted to. But there’s so much that’s done so very well that I feel it’s well worth your time. It is put together by competent people, who worked hard. It is never cheap. It is never easy. It is too classy to be meta, and too thoughtful to be dull. Worth a go, if this has piqued your interest. And you’ll see what’s actually going on with the dalmatians.