Born Brilliant, Bad, and a Little Bit Mad (Cruella Review)

Disney is our Overlord. I wouldn’t be surprised if like in a hundred and one years from now, Disney owns everything. I mean it’s not like they don’t already, really. Now, if you’ve been around the past few years or so, you know that Disney has been on this live-action kick. Of course, there was already the live action version of 101 Dalmatians and the sequel 102 Dalmatians. But Disney decided it wanted to make it’s classic movies into live-action films. Let’s talk briefly about the movies so far.

The first one was Alice in Wonderland, released in 2010.

Mia Wasikowska as Alice Kingsleigh in Alice in Wonderland (2010)

As someone who wasn’t that fond of the animated movie, I really enjoyed the live-action version. It wasn’t necessary a live-action remake, but rather, a continuation of the animated film. In it, Alice, now a young woman, returns to Wonderland or as it’s called in the film, Underland. It gave me a new appreciation for the animated film and the world of Wonderland. As someone who loves Wonderland (I mean, hell a story I’m writing technically involves Wonderland but I simply call it a different name: Caillte, which means “lost” in Irish.), I love seeing the different versions of Alice in Wonderland. One of my favorite series is the Splintered series which is yet another version of Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, originally penned by Lewis Carroll in 1865, is one of those books that is considered in the public domain. What does that mean? It means that basically, the author has been dead a while and the copyright has expired. It means that basically, you can do whatever you want with that material and not get in trouble. I mean think of how many versions we have of Shakespeare or Arthurian legend we have. Here’s a list of books that are going to enter into the public domain this year.

Alice in Wonderland also has an all-star cast with Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter), Helena Bonham Carter (Red Queen), Anne Hathway (White Queen), Alan Rickman (Caterpillar) and Martin Sheen (White Rabbit). While the sequel to Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass was not as successful in my opinion, it was still an okay movie.

The next movie we received from Disney was Maleficent in 2014, And not to sound biased but it’s my favorite movie (though Cruella might be up there, but we’ll get to that).

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent in Maleficent

Now with this one, it wasn’t a straight remake, much like Alice in Wonderland. Rather, Maleficent tells the story of you guessed it, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie, is a dark fae who falls in love with a human and that human betrays her. That human becomes king and is Aurora’s dad. Maleficent only wants to keep her people safe so she builds a thorny wall around the forest. Aurora is born and Maleficent of course curses her. Three nitwit fairies take the girl into the forest and raise her. But really, Maleficent raises her. In the shadows, Maleficent watches Aurora, calling her beastie, and over time Maleficent grows to love her. Long story short, in the end, it is not the kiss from some prince we don’t care about that breaks the kiss. It is the sweet kiss from a mother that breaks the curse. Because sometimes love is not the romantic kind. Instead, it was the familial kind. And isn’t that just beautiful?

Even Maleficent’s sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which explored what happened to the dark fae, was still good. Which is a rarity since most of the time the sequel isn’t as good as the first one but that’s a blog for another time. Also, we find out that Maleficent is the last of her lineage, a phoenix and that’s just kind of awesome, not going to lie.

Next we had Cinderella in 2015, which was more or less the same as the animated movie. Though this Cinderella had more spunk, which I could definitely appreciate. “Have courage and be kind,” became the motto of this movie. Also, who doesn’t love Cate Blanchett playing the evil stepmother? The dress for Cinderella was stunning. I want it. No, really. I seriously want this dress. (Below.)

Lily James as Cinderella in Cinderella (2015)

Someone buy me that dress. Please. I’d wear it everyday to work with no cares in the world.

Beauty and the Beast. . . .was disappointing, which was tragic, really. Beauty and the Beast (the animated one) is one of my favorite Disney movies. Up there with The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mulan. But the live-action? It was terribly disappointing. The songs weren’t the same and it just fell so flat. Like it was missing everything the animated one had. My friend Angela told me that they recorded in the studio and also did live singing which was why it felt so off. Seriously, just pick one and go with it. And as much as I love Emma Watson, she can’t sing, no matter how many lessons she had. Now, Gaston, played by Luke Evans and LeFou played by Josh Gad, honestly stole the show. I think I got through that movie by only paying attention to them. Pretty sure both Luke Evans and Josh Gad had musical experience so of course they can sing. (Correct me if I am wrong on that.)

I will say that I liked that they made Belle an inventor, and gave the Beast a bit more of a personality. Even if I didn’t really like Dan Stevens. The CGI on the Beast was dreadful. Though, Beauty and the Beast did give us “Evermore” which is a beautiful song. Here’s Josh Groban’s version. And it’s. . .*chef’s kiss*

Aladdin was okay. I mean it was basically the same movie. More or less. The two main leads had no chemistry. At all. Which honestly, is a problem when it comes to all movies and TV shows. It’s always a hit or miss if the love interestes have any chemistry. Such as Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright in the Harry Potter movies, Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried in In Time, and Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in Twilight are some movie examples. Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy from Arrow, and Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin from True Blood are some TV show examples.

The costumes in Aladdin were incredible however. Stunning beautiful and oh so colorful. Jasmine has so many costume changes, and it’s great. (See below.)

Naomi Scott as Jasmine from Aladdin (2019)

I feel like they were trying to make Aladdin like a Bollywood movie but it lacked the heart most Bollywood movies have. While the singing was slightly better than Beauty and the Beast, it still was not as good as the animated one. I appreciated that Will Smith didn’t try to be Robin Williams. His Genie was not the Genie from the animated film. Will Smith’s Genie was a completely different entity and honored the memory of Robin Williams.

The Jungle Book came out in 2016, was. . . .eh. I mean they really didn’t need it. It was the same as the animated one. The music wasn’t there at all really, other than the score during scenes. While, yes in the live-action Mulan, they could get away with not making it a musical, for The Jungle Book, it didn’t really work. So really, I have no feelings towards that one.

Next we have the live-action Dumbo which came out in 2019. Growing up, the pink elephants scene in the animated Dumbo movie, terrified me. Seriously, it’s terrifying. Look at it and tell me it’s not horrifying for a child to watch.

TERRIFYING.

For Dumbo, the live action is actually better than the animated film. I know, I know, but trust me. I loved it. So much. It was a heartwarming movie that wasn’t just about a baby elephant that could fly but also, about a dad returning from war where he lost his arm and connecting to his children.

The Lion King was the same as Beauty and the Beast when it comes to the music. But at least with Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella and Aladdin for that matter, they made some changes. It wasn’t the exact same movie. The Lion King? It is the exact same, frame by frame. Check out one image below.

The Lion King (1994) vs. The Lion King (2019)

The entire movie is like that.

It was a waste of my time watching it. The songs were all wrong. The voices wrong. Everything was wrong. I wish I could un-watch it. Even James Earl Jones who played Mufasa once again, didn’t sound right. ALSO it isn’t live action. It was all CGI. So whenever people call it live-action I get annoyed. It’s not like they used real animals. They didn’t. Much like they didn’t in The Jungle Book, I believe.

Mulan, like a lot of movies, got pushed back due to the pandemic. (Seriously, I can’t have one blog post without mentioning COVID.). A lot of people got pissy because of the fact Mushu, played by Eddie Murphy in the original, was not in the remake. Also, the fact it wasn’t a musical. Here’s the thing (my catch phrase), I liked that they took a different route with Mulan. The live-action version draws from the Ballad of Mulan in China and Chinese-speaking cultures. For more information on the origin of Mulan, check out these sites.

Mulan: the History of the Chinese Legend Behind the Film

The Controversial Origins of the Story Behind Mulan

Mulan is a young woman who is different than the others. She is adventurous and active, defying the traditions of her people. She joins the Imperial army, concealing herself and trains with the men, often beating them. Unlike with the animated one, there is no Shang. This isn’t a love story. This is about a woman who has had to hide her entire life because she was wrong. She was not a real woman because she defied all of them. She was better than them, yet society told her that she wasn’t allowed to be. Xianniang, is a witch. She is used for her gifts, shunned by others for being unnatural. Like Mulan, she wants to be accepted. Had she been a man, her magic would be more accepted but since she is a woman, she’s rejected.

In the end, Mulan saves the day and goes home, but gains respect from the Emperor and her father realizes that he should have never made his daughter hide her true self.

Donnie Yen as Commander Tung, Yifei Liu as Mulan, and Gong Li as Xianniang from Mulan (2020)

The costumes were stunning and really drew from Chinese culture.

I enjoyed the live-action Mulan just as much as I enjoy the animated one. The live-action didn’t feel like a remake, but rather a separate entity entirely.

(I am not mentioning Lady and the Tramp which was released on Disney Plus because I never watched it.)

Now that I’ve talked about the live-action Disney movies I’ve watched, let’s get to the newest edition to the live-action movie, Cruella. Like Maleficent, Cruella is the origin story of Cruella de Ville, the villain of 101 Dalmatians. You probably know her song quite well.

Yes, that one. I’d be very disappointed if you didn’t sing a long to the song.

Just as Wonder Woman: 1984 embraced all of the 80s, Cruella embraces all of the 70s. It all about what is new, hip, and cool. The era of punk rock and challenging the status quo.

Cruella is a heist-fashion-revenge movie that somehow, works quite well. Even though really none of those genres belong together. Perhaps heist and revenge, but not fashion. It’s as if you took The Devil Wears Prada put it together with Ocean’s 8 and then threw in some Kill Bill.

From the very beginning I’ve always made a statement. Not every one appreciated that. but I wasn’t for everyone.

Cruella, Cruella

Emma Stone plays the title character. I love Emma Stone. I’ve loved her since she starred in The House Bunny, Easy A, and Zombieland. Then she starred in movies like The Help and The Amazing Spiderman. I think she is an incredible actress. In Cruella, she really shines.

Cruella’s true name is Estella Miller, a creative, rebellious young girl, who often finds herself getting into trouble and has a nasty streak. Hence her alter ego, Cruella. Estella gets kicked out of school for her misbehavior. She and her mother decide to leave for London. They make a pit stop to a fancy mansion on the edge of a cliff (that’s important later). to ask some broad looking all fancy in a white dress for money. Estella channels Cruella and sneaks into the party to look at the pretty dresses (can’t blame her there). She ends up running from Dalmatians. Those Dalmatians then proceed to push her mother off the cliff. Estella is devastated, even more so when she realizes that the necklace her mother entrusted to her is lost. Estella runs and who does she meet? Two orphan boys named Jasper and Horace. Together the three of them become quite the thieving trio.

Ten years later, Jasper, Horace, and Estella are still at their thieving ways. But Estella still dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Jasper gets her a job at the prestigious Liberty, where the famed fashionista and haute couture designer the Baroness, played by the wonderful Emma Thompson, is the boss. Of course, she is simply the maid until after Cruella takes over in a moment of weakness, transforming a boring window into something stunning. The Baroness takes interest and Estella finds herself a job with the Baroness.

Paul Walter Hauser as Horace, Emma Stone as Estella Miller and Joel Fry as Jasper in Cruella

The Baroness is the HBIC, and she knows it. She is narcissistic, cruel, vindictive and arrogant. She doesn’t care who she has to step one with her pointy stiletto heels to get to the top. In fact, she’ll blame you for being in her way, then keep walking as she trails your blood across the marble floor and then calls it art. She is a woman who knows what she wants and will take it. Even if she has to pry it from your cold dead hands.

You can’t care about anyone else. Everyone else is an obstacle. You care what an obstacle wants or feels, you’re dead. If I cared about anyone or thing, I might have died like so many brilliant women with a drawer full of unseen genius and a heart full of sad bitterness. You have the talent for your own label. Whether you have the killer instinct is the big question.”

The Baroness, Cruella
Emma Thompson as the Baroness from Cruella

The Baroness sees something in Estella and takes her on as a protégé. You think everything is all good and well, until you see the Baroness wearing the necklace. You know, the necklace the Estella lost. Estella asks about it and the Baroness says it’s a family heirloom (that’s important later) that some old employee stole from her. Now this fashion movie has turned into a heist and revenge movie.

Estella plots with Horace and Jasper to get the necklace back. In typical fashion, she does get the necklace back. . .sort of. Rather, it ends up in a Dalmatian so she steals the Dalmatians. Now, Estella doesn’t just want the necklace back. Oh no, it was never about the necklace. No. It was about revenge for the fact the Baroness killed Estella’s mother.

They say there are five stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We’ll I’d like to add one more. . . .Revenge.

Cruella, Cruella

I mentioned that this was a fashion movie, correct? Let’s talk about the fashion. I am tore on which on her many outfits that I like best. Estella has so many lovely outfits. I’m quite certain I want to be her or Cruella for Halloween. (Or you know, both. Be like half Estella and half her alter ego Cruella).

Let’s take a looksie at her many costume changes.

Emma Stone as Estella Miller in Cruella

This outfit is very like grunge, punk like. Here she is still Estella while Cruella maybe takes a spin around on occasions. I love how they change her outfits as she gets closer and closer to being just Cruella. The entire out is very military-esque but with a punk feel. I love the textures and the black-on-black pieces. I’d wear that outift.

Paul Walter Hauser as Horace, Emma Stone as Cruella and Joel Fry as Jasper in Cruella

The next outfit is the flame dress. It is. . .*chef’s kiss* She crashes the Baroness’ Black and White Ball, making an entrance in a white cloak. You think that’s it but no, it’s not. She asks for a light and then she’s literally on fire! Boy, how to make an entrance. Of course the heist doesn’t go exactly to plan since the necklace isn’t in the vault and instead around the Baroness’ neck. In the end, one of the Dalmatians swallows the necklace and Cruella steals the dogs and plans revenge.

Check out the scene below. It is truly iconic. I think even Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada would be impressed.

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada

Me too, Miranda, Me too. Only, I wouldn’t look as fabulous taking off my glasses as you. I’d probably stab myself in the eye, honestly.

The third outfit is after the heist that went wrong. Cruella is now taking over, and she wants revenge. She walks into this awesome store that I wish I could go to run by this fabulous fellow named Artie. He’s perfect in every way.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Cruella

She asks him:

I want to make art, Artie, and I want to make trouble. You in?

Cruella, Cruella
John McCrea as Artie from Cruella

I do love trouble.

Artie, Cruella

He’s like “I don’t know what we are doing but you come walking in my store looking some goth punk goddess and ask little old for me help? I am so down, darling. When do we start?” Same, Artie. Same.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Cruella

Her fourth outfit is seriously so 70s. Like I swear that’s (above) something David Bowie would’ve worn. Tell me I’m not wrong. Like it’s like so him. She ends up crashing an event that Baroness hosts, taking over with her loud music and punk clothing. The Baroness is all about dresses and traditional style while Cruella is all about new and different. The Future as her eyes say, which might seem a bit too on the nose.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Cruella

What’s that phrase? Oh yes. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or, you know, in this woman’s. Could Cruella be any more dramatic with this dress?

Seriously.

Look at it.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Cruella

That train has to be like 60 feet. Give or take. It’s fabulous and so extra, and as someone who can be pretty extra herself, I can appreciate Cruella’s extra-ness. You go girl. Seriously. I am here for this drama. Let’s go.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Cruella

This is probably my least favorite dress. I think the trash dress is more impressive than this petal one. I do like the red though, and how Cruella stands on stop of the Baroness’ car and covers the window so no one sees the Baroness. Is it dramatic? Yeah, but like, we’ve already seen a huge long train.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Cruella

Ah, the infamous ‘dog coat.’ Now, this coat isn’t made of Dalmatians. This is Cruella being on the nose and being a shit, to put it plainly. In fact, in this movie, Cruella has a dog herself. In fact, the Dalmatians she steals from the Baroness end up becoming loyal to her. Which is kind of hilarious and a bit ironic when you think about it.

I don’t know about you but I got some major like Reputation album vibes from this movie. I’m pretty sure “Look What You Made Me Do” wouldn’t be off if it was on the soundtrack for Cruella. In fact, it would be perfect on the soundtrack.

I’m sorry, the old Estella can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, because she’s dead. And Cruella has taken her place.

No, seriously. That’s how the end of the movie works. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Cruella

Estella finds out that the Baroness, who tried to burn her alive, is actually her mother. Hhhhhhhheeeeeelllllllllooooo, plot twist! I was like “Oh my god.” I did not see that coming, which was rather refreshing, honestly.

So Estella plots and has the Baroness push her off the same balconey her adoptive mother got pushed off of. Then she comes back as Cruella and takes her fortune.

This is the outfit that she wears after all that mess. It screams: “Now I am the head bitch in charge.”

Emma Stone as Cruella in Cruella

All in all, this was a great movie. I don’t think it needs a sequel. It’s perfect as it is.

It’s not Estella. That’s the past. I’m Cruella.

Cruella, Cruella

I do like the nod to 101 Dalmatians at the end credit scene where Estella’s friend Anita and Roger recieve Dalmatian puppies.

If you haven’t seen Cruella, do it. Seriously. You won’t regret it.

Now, here’s Florence and the Machine to close out this blog post.

-K

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