Coming in second on its opening weekend at the box office, “Cruella” is Walt Disney Pictures’ latest live-action film revisiting a nostalgic property from its catalog, this time exploring the origin story of the titular villain of the 1961 animated classic “One Hundred and One Dalmatians.”
“Cruella” earned $21.3 million over its opening weekend, lagging far behind “A Quiet Place II”’s debut at $57 million, according to SlashFilm.
The film is Walt Disney Pictures’ first attempt to capture a wide theatrical audience since the COVID-19 pandemic stunted sales and forced the company to create a hybrid release model on its streaming service, Disney+.
Despite its hybrid release, “Cruella” saw disappointing sales numbers both in theaters and at home, proving the star power of its titular character and Oscar-winning actress Emma Stone wasn’t quite enough to capture audiences’ attention.
Audiences love to hate Cruella de Vil.
Since her inception, Cruella has become a cultural icon among Disney and fashion enthusiasts alike.
She is also one of the few classic Disney villains to exist in our human reality and whose sinister motive to don the furs of domestic Dalmatians, while outlandish, is unfortunately feasible.
Where 1996’s live-action “101 Dalmatians” (starring Glenn Close) captured the vile insanity of the original animated Cruella de Vil, 2021’s “Cruella” instead serves to humanize, and even water down, much of the savage nature of the fashionable villainess.
With motives so cruel as seeking to skin Dalmatians for their furs, I had to wonder what value a serious live-action “Cruella” would offer to a villain already infamous for her uncomplicated absurdity.
“Cruella” stars Stone (“La La Land”) as the young and rebellious Estrella, whose mother’s sudden death leaves her orphaned in the streets of London. With the help of two young thieves who take her in, Estrella inevitably makes her way into the fashion industry under a famed and ruthless designer known only as the “Baroness” (Emma Thompson).
Estrella’s awe is cut short upon realizing the Baroness was responsible for her mother’s death, sending the young woman down a spiraling revenge plot and awakening her menacing alter ego, ‘Cruella.’
What ensues is an exhaustive battle between two fashion icons attempting to upstage one another at every turn, bombshell plot twists dropping on the audience at nauseating frequency.
“Cruella” was also an exhausting two-hours long.
At such a length, the catfight inevitably began to feel like a drag until its abrupt ending, at which point I began to regret not having opted to watch “The Quiet Place II” instead.
“Cruella” ultimately proved to be a competent and inoffensive film, which is ironic, given the previously established sadistic nature of the main character.
Stone and Thompson were the clear standouts, giving convincing performances even when delivering some of the most unintentionally absurd-sounding dialogue I’ve heard in a film in recent memory.
I can also applaud the film’s costume designers, who truly went above and beyond to sell the looks of the main characters in every scene. The costumes themselves nearly upstaged the mediocrity of the film itself.
Otherwise, the film was incredibly weak — especially in its screenplay — and failed to justify its own existence for a character that otherwise needed no explanation for her campy wickedness.
Like many recent live-action adaptations from Walt Disney Studios, “Cruella” is a decent, albeit forgettable, film that does little aside from capitalizing on the nostalgia associated with its animated source material.
And with recent sales numbers, one has to wonder how long Walt Disney Studios will continue this strategy rather than take the financial risk on original stories.