Cruella: A Great Movie Weighed Down by Forced Premise – Disney+ Review

This movie is like 90% great and 10% WHY?????

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Estella Miller (Emma Stone) was born a bit of an outcast due to her black-and-white hair, but it certainly isn’t helped by her mischievous streak. Her only friend growing up is a young girl named Anita Darling (Kirby Howell-Baptiste). Her mother, Catherine (Emily Beecham), decides to move the two of them to London, but when she stops to get help from a “friend,” Estella wanders into a fashion show and gets caught, resulting in a pack of Dalmatians chasing after her. The Dalmatians attack her mother and kill her. Yes, that actually happens. Now orphaned, Estella meets two street urchins named Horace and Jasper (Paul Walter Hauser and Joel Fry). The three grow up as thieves until Estella finally manages to get a job working for famed fashion designer The Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) and befriends local fashion shop owner Artie (John McCrea). Soon, however, Estella decides she needs to pull a heist on her employer and debuts herself as the new face of fashion: Cruella. 

She makes all of her own outfits.

END SUMMARY

I will start by saying that having Cruella de Vil’s mother killed by Dalmatians is possibly the absolute dumbest thing they could have done. Moreover, it doesn’t even make her hate Dalmatians, not even the ones that actually orphaned her, thus making it completely useless to her origin. Combine that with the idea that Cruella de Vil’s black-and-white hair is somehow natural and the terrible “this is how I died” set-up and I’ll admit that at the 10 minute mark, I was about ready to call this movie a disaster (despite a great performance by Tipper Seifert-Cleveland as young Cruella). Surprisingly, though, once the movie kind of settles into its ultimate 1970s London location, the film actually gets pretty entertaining and impressive.

She. Was. Born. With two-toned hair.

First of all, the makeup and hair design and set design in this movie might both merit Oscar nominations, if not outright wins, but the costume design takes it to another level. The costumes in the film have to be beautiful, diverse (they are coming from multiple designers, after all), thematically appropriate, and inventive as heck. Somehow, they pull it off repeatedly. At one point, without spoiling anything, it’s revealed that Cruella is wearing almost the entire shot and I legitimately shouted at the brilliance of it. As far as makeup and set design goes, this movie looks absolutely gorgeous. Spots are hidden everywhere to reference the Dalmatians, the colors are bold, they look period appropriate while also containing references to locations of famous art shows (if you just watched Halston, then you’d probably recognize some stuff), and they’re just cool looking. 

Welcome to the future. It involves a lot of spray paint.

Emma Thompson and Emma Stone are both amazing. They’re both strong women with more similarities than they’d like to admit, particularly since Emma Thompson resembles the person that we are told Cruella will one day become. She definitely seems a bit influenced by Glenn Close in the live action version as well as Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Emma Stone plays Estella as a bit of a split personality with Cruella, changing quite a bit as she indulges further and further into her criminal persona, which starts to actually behave like a young version of her future self. Paul Walter Hauser and Joel Fry both give a lot more personality to their characters which is helped by the fact that they deal with both Estella, who treats them like close friends, and Cruella, who treats them like lackeys. It’s interesting to see them react to the change, because at first they just try to deal with it because they care about her, but then they slowly get worn down by her abuse.

I literally don’t know if this is a wig. We see dye, but then we see wig later.

The biggest problem, though, is that the film can’t actually let Cruella be the villain. While she does START to do a turn towards darkness, she never actually falls to it. By the end of the movie, she’s basically just a successful fashion designer with no indication that she’d ever order the murder of a bunch of Dalmatians just to make a coat. In fact, a big part of the movie is that one of her closest companions IS A DOG. Even when she is actually given the chance to be cruel to animals, the film makes it clear that she is not even considering it. At the end of the film, there is absolutely no way that the character we’ve been following will EVER be Cruella de Vil except in name. It’s not that she’s a bad character, in fact, she’s very interesting, but she’s not Cruella de Vil. Oh, and the mid-credits scene only drives that home way more.

She even has a dog. And Horace has the cutest chihuahua ever.

Overall, the only parts of this movie that don’t work are the ones that seem to be forced to make it a “Cruella de Vil” movie. If you just let it be independent of that, the movie was actually pretty enjoyable and, again, damned gorgeous.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Love Wedding Repeat: You Can Skip The Reception

A Sliding Doors and My Best Friend’s Wedding mash-up doesn’t quite work.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Jack (Sam Claflin) and Dina (Olivia Munn) meet through Jack’s sister Hayley (Eleanor Tomlinson) and spend several days courting in Italy. On the last day before he leaves, he fails to kiss her and apparently doesn’t see her for several years. Yes, this is the age of smartphones. They meet again at Hayley’s wedding, which is also crashed by Hayley’s coked-up stalker Marc (Jack Farthing), who has come to win Hayley back. Hayley asks Jack to drug Marc so that he won’t make a scene. Jack puts sleeping pills in Marc’s glass… after which a bunch of kids play with the place settings. This impacts a number of people’s plans: Jack’s attempts to finally romance Dina; Hayley’s aspiring actor Maid/Man-of-Honor Bryan (Joel Fry) trying to score points with acclaimed filmmaker Vitelli (Paolo Mazzarelli); Jack’s ex Amanda (Freida Pinto) deals with her new insecure boyfriend Chaz (Allan Mustafa); and clingers-on Rebecca (Aisling Bea) and Sidney (Tim Key) both try to hit on people in awkward conversations. After everything goes wrong, the movie then shows us how things would play out if the kids moved the place cards in other ways.

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This whole movie is based on him not texting after. 

END SUMMARY

This is not a Groundhog Day/Edge of Tomorrow situation, despite what the marketing and title would indicate. Nobody is aware of the different timelines and they don’t impact each other like Run Lola Run, so I think the most publicly recognizable analogue is Sliding Doors. It’s closer to the “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode of the show Community, but a lot of people haven’t seen that episode, sadly. We’re told, fairly explicitly, that all of the realities we see play out are real and happening simultaneously… which actually has the opposite effect in this movie that they were going for. As Rick and Morty frequently points out, if the multiverse is truly infinite, then everything happens, which means that everything that happens is less meaningful. The movie tries to save it by saying that it’s not necessarily an infinite number of outcomes, just a huge number, and that makes any occurrence more special, but it really doesn’t come off that way. It also doesn’t help that we really only see two of the timelines, with the other ones just having quick flashes in between the main two narratives. 

LoveWedRepeat - 2TheEx
I think there’s one where they get back together.

A big problem with the movie is that it’s supposed to be Jack and Dina’s story, but we barely get the time to process them as a couple to even care about whether they get together or not. That’s the Rom part of Rom-com and it seems completely unfulfilled. Part of why is that the movie has too many ancillary plotlines which are not rewarding enough to merit the focus. It also hurts that several of the characters just flat-out aren’t likable in the original timeline, which makes it really hard to root for them in the second timeline. They also go too overboard on the original universe being the “darkest timeline” (again, Community) with everything descending into absurdly bad circumstances for everyone, rather than just having a universe where Jack and Dina don’t work out.

LoveWedRepeat - 3Cake
You can tell it’s the worst because the cake gets wrecked.

The reason why the movie ultimately fails, though, is that it just isn’t that funny. The timing on all of the jokes just doesn’t work, there aren’t enough reaction beats, and, mostly, the lines just aren’t that clever. Without the Rom and without the Com, this Rom-Com really never stood a chance. It’s surprising that this film was by Dean Craig, who made the (admittedly similar feeling) Death at a Funeral movies. 

LoveWedRepeat - 4Sidney
Tim Key (center) does have some fun lines, but they’re few.

To the film’s credit, the cast is pretty great at their roles. All of them manage to portray wildly different sides of the same characters and do it believably. Jack isn’t a perfect protagonist, but you do get the feeling that he’s a decent guy. We see Hayley reveal the same embarrassing secret in two different scenarios, and Eleanor Tomlinson plays it perfectly both times. 

Overall, I just can’t recommend this film. Maybe just check out Community, since it’s now on Netflix.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.