Most likely, no one has ever wondered what pushed Cruella de Vil to become one of the Disney’s most iconic villains, capable of killing pets to skin them and make coats with their skins. Was she born evil? If not, what trauma or trip of fate diverted her to him? These are questions that, we say, had no relevance even for those who knew the character thanks to the Animated Fantasy ‘101 Dalmatians’ (1961) nor for those who did it through the live action remake starring in 1996 por Glenn Close. And despite this, now there is a movie that tries to answer them, or at least pretends to do so.
If he does not achieve it in a minimally satisfactory way, it is largely due to his determination to subject the titular character to a process of humanization and whitening similar to the one Disney already practiced through the ‘Maleficent’ saga about the witch from Cinderella’s tale. In ‘Cruella’, consequently, a despicable woman known for hating dogs – and other despicable traits – appears transformed into a animal lover and a victim of abuse, and even characterized with typical superhero ornaments: an ‘alter ego’, colorful outfits, combat skills and an antagonist to defeat with her superhuman powers, in this case related to design and sewing. By the way, it reaches movie theaters and the Disney + platform at the same time.
To portray the character, the director Craig Gillespie moved to London in the seventies and, using the same kind of ironic voice-over that he already made good use of in ‘Yo, Tonya’ (2017) “It doesn’t work as well here for him.” He presents her to us first as an orphan girl and then as a young thief, Estella (Emma Stone), who yearns to become a star in the fashion world. His dream seems to come true when he gets a job in the atelier of the city’s most influential designer, Baroness Von Hellman (Emma Thompson), but it doesn’t take long for him to discover the utterly monstrous nature of his new boss. And, while planning his revenge, Estella is turning into Cruella.
At least on a psychological level, the metamorphosis is not surprising or remarkable, in part because at this point – thanks to titles like ‘Venom’ (2018) O ‘Joker’ (2019), among many others – we are already more than familiar with this type of transits to the dark side, and partly Gillespie does not seem to be very clear if Cruella is simply a wrong woman or a victim of mental illness or someone completely unscrupulous and, as a consequence, as we get to know the character, his behavior becomes more and more illogical. Furthermore, the film fails to give her confrontation with the baroness a real dramatic tension, and for a good part of its two and a quarter hours of footage it takes place as a mere repetition of situations – the young woman carries out an act of sabotage against her enemy. , his enemy is enraged – during which the only really interesting thing that happens on screen is the spectacular costume pieces.
The promotional campaign of the film has tried to make your heroine an icon of punk although, in reality, what it offers us is a substitute and conveniently ‘disneyfied’ version of the fashion and music associated with that label. The designs, from the outset, take the aesthetic popularized in its day by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood and they sanitize it based on allusions to ‘glam’, the Victorian era and even ‘Swinging London’; and the ‘Cruella’ soundtrack is a relentless succession of the most hackneyed and obvious ‘greatest hits’ from artists like The Rolling Stones, Nina Simone, Blondie Y The Stooges, the type of selection that would fit perfectly in the musical thread of a ‘Starbucks’.
It is true that you wouldn’t expect anything other than a Disney production, and that is why the desperation with which the film tries to appropriate the iconography of a movement that was born in part as a reaction to the ideals that the Mickey Mouse company embodies is especially regrettable, without evidencing in the process any other purpose than mere posturing . There is not an iota of breakthrough in ‘Cruella’, nor in the plot influences that it shows – from ‘Oliver Twist’ to ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ – nor in the efforts he dedicates to plant the seeds for future sequels and, of course Nor in the treatment he grants to his main character. This Cruella never lives up to her name, not even remotely, and she is as prone to skinning a Dalmatian as she is to combining red with green. No one likes animal killers, and ‘Cruella’ wants everyone to like them. Is there anything less ‘punk’ than that?