As a woman in her mid-20s who likes cats better than dogs, enjoys over-the-top celebrity fashion, and at one point owned several things from Hot Topic, I have to imagine I’m the exact intended audience for Cruella. Starring Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, and—one would imagine—several dogs, Cruella hit Disney+ this weekend to a chorus of middling-to-mixed reviews. Apparently there’s only so much to be done with an origin story about the villain from 101 Dalmatians. And though I am exhausted by the idea of yet another Disney live-action movie exploring a character no one needed to know more about, I feel that this movie was made very much For Me. Will I enjoy it? Perhaps not, but I have nothing better to watch and probably neither do you. So let’s slap on a red lip and some smudgy eyeliner, and try to figure this movie out as we go, shall we?
1. Why does this movie exist? (Sorry, just had to get that out of my system. Banishing the negative energy, pressing play.)
2. Does every origin story have to start with the subject’s literal birth?
3. Did they really expect a scene in which the delivering doctor is horrified by this baby “Estella” and her black-and-white hair to have any impact on someone who has seen Wicked? (I imagine the core audience for this movie is exclusively people who have seen Wicked. If you haven’t, she comes out green and it’s a whole thing.)
4. Can you believe it took a full minute and 20 seconds for Estella’s mother to say the words, “That’s cruel. Your name is Estella, not Cruella?” That’s it, folks, that’s a wrap. We now know how the villain from 101 Dalmatians came to be called Cruella.
5. Why does Estella’s mom have so much faith in her daughter’s dream to be a fashion designer? I, too, wanted to be a fashion designer, along with every 9-year-old girl in history. Now here I am, writing a blog about a fictional fashion designer who may or may not kill a bunch of dogs. Career plans change, that’s all I’m saying.
6. Did Estella learn her lifelong horrible dog treatment from her mother, who just left her child and dog in the car to go to a party for an indeterminate amount of time?
7. Did they give Estella a scruffy little dog just to try to score some Not All Dogs points?
8. What kind of timeline are we working with here? Aren’t we in the 1960s? Why are all of the characters dressed like extras from Marie Antoinette?
9. How did it take merely eight minutes and 50 seconds for this movie to introduce evil, snarling, guard dog Dalmatians?
10. Oh God, why did they use CGI Dalmatians?
11. Why do they look SO SCARY?
12. Did the Dalmations just push Estella’s mother over a cliff and commit literal murder? (Yes.)
13. Why does Disney hate parents? Why are Disney characters always orphans?
14. Estella runs away and befriends two pickpockets, who also have a small ratty dog. … First of all, this is almost literally the plot of The Lion King. But second of all, isn’t this movie’s pro-mutt angle sort of undercut by the whole Evil Dog Killer thing?
15. Why does this new dog have an eyepatch? Do dogs have eyepatches in real life, and if so, why have I never seen one on my TikTok feed?
16. Are these two guys Cruella’s henchmen from the original movie?
17. Should I have rewatched 101 Dalmatians before starting this movie?
18. Related question: How much time am I willing to put into this assignment?
19. Uh-oh, time jump. Estella is played by Emma Stone now, and she’s discovered hair dye—or maybe it was just invented? Again, what time period are we in?
20. Did Emma Stone go to the Anne Hathaway Here-One-Minute-Gone-The-Next School of the British accent? She’s saying “cheers” very weirdly.
21. Emma Stone’s giant eyes, mommy issues, and grunge take on ’70s fashion are all giving me Beth Harmon vibes. This begs the question: Anya Taylor-Joy could have done Cruella, but could Emma Stone have done The Queen’s Gambit?
22. Ah wonderful, Emma Thompson is here and we’ve entered her fabulous London fashion house. This begs another question: Emma Thompson could have done Phantom Thread, but could Daniel Day-Lewis have done Cruella?
23. Why is the Baroness (Emma Thompson) covering her hair? Is she Cruella’s grandmother and presumably hiding the trademark black-and-white hair?
24. Oh, no, there’s her hair. It’s normal. Why am I thinking about this movie instead of just admiring the outfits, as it was clearly meant to be consumed?
25. Somehow I have already heard “I Am Woman,” “Whisper Whisper,” “She’s a Rainbow,” “Time of the Season,” “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” “Feeling Good,” and “Whole Lotta Love.” How many over-the-top needle drops are we going to cycle through in a 15-minute sequence?
26. Uh-oh, Estella just found out during the Baroness’s daily power nap that her mom died because of the Baroness. (Just FYI: Dalmatians are NOT cold-blooded killers, but they ARE apparently being used as canine hitmen.) But anyway, what kind of ultra-strong mascara is Emma Thompson using that holds up beneath the weight and moisture of two cucumber eye masks every day, and where can I buy it? (In no way is this the point of this scene, but I’m here to ask the questions that come to me.)
27. Is one of these henchmen kinda cute? Is he a love interest that I overlooked due to his humble henchman origins? Joel Fry, I apologize, and are you free Thursday?
28. Oh shit, they’re gonna steal Emma Thompson’s necklace during a giant party. Did this just turn into a heist movie? Is this Ocean’s 8? What is Cate Blanchett doing right now, and how can I get her here?
29. Seriously, why did they make the Dalmations so creepy? I’m going to be very anti-dog by the end of the movie.
30. “No one is interested in what you write, my dear. Just in how I look.” Emma Thompson, did you have to come for me like that?
31. Are Emma Thompson and Mark Strong’s characters sleeping together? If not, why not?
32. Is Estella’s outfit reveal the best dress-on-fire moment since The Hunger Games?
33. How did her hair not catch on fire when her hood burned off? Those permed, hair-sprayed curls would go up in an instant, come on now.
34. How did she get the red dye out of her natural white hair so quickly and easily? Anyone who has ever come within 10 feet of red hair dye knows that the only way to get rid of it is to cut all of your hair off.
35. Why do movie characters always assume they have a flawless disguise when they’re covering only 25 percent of their face? We spent the past year in masks being recognized by people we didn’t want to see at the supermarket—we know this is bullshit!
36. Did the one henchman just spray his chihuahua with rat poison? This movie is anti-dog!
37. Genuinely curious: Has PETA released a statement on Cruella? (Upon further research, it turns out it did! According to PETA, its praise for Cruella is “on paws” until Disney takes steps to “spotlight”—PETA’s emphasis, not mine—that dogs are not accessories and deserve to be adopted. The puns are a bit much but the message is solid.)
38. The majority of people in this movie are rude, scheming, kind of bitchy, and very fabulous, so I have to ask: Why haven’t they ever tried owning a cat?
39. OK, Cruella has officially broken bad now that she knows the Baroness had her dogs kill her mother. But this is the problem with villain origin stories: I love the new look, but can’t she be a little nicer to everyone? No? We’re here because she’s mean? OK.
40. I’m now watching a movie where Emma Stone has a makeover, starts wearing a lot of corsets and leather with red accents, and works to circulate untrue gossip about her life so that people think she’s cool. Is this Easy A?
41. Am I now just grasping at the strands of other good movies inside this very mediocre movie? (Yes.)
42. OK, she’s giving haute-couture Joker vibes now and this Cruella party-crashing montage is pretty great. What are the odds that this montage stretches the rest of the hour left in this movie and I end up having a good time after all? (Circling back on this—unfortunately the montage ended and so did my good time.)
43. How is Cruella churning out these gowns so quickly? Is this actually a fast fashion origin story? Now that’s evil.
44. Is it time to talk about how a major segment of this film revolves around waiting for a dog to poop out a necklace? Frankly too much of this film???
45. “I’m getting a little tired of Cruella,” one of the henchmen just said. Would you like to start a club, sir?
46. How many wigs can Emma Stone fit on her head at any given time? In one scene, she just took off a red wig to reveal her black-and-white hair underneath, obviously yet another wig. Wig-ception!
47. Did Cruella sew live bug chrysalises onto a dress? Should we consider this as a solution to Brood X?
48. Love-interest henchman is now playing guitar at Cruella’s rave turned fashion show. Is she paying enough for the services of a charming renaissance man like this? Is she paying him anything at all?
49. To be honest, when the Dalmation coat finally appeared … it’s a fit, right? I don’t approve of her methods, but can we agree that the results are undeniable?
50. OK, so the Baroness caught on to Cruella, tried to burn her alive in her apartment, and then her little mutt dogs tried to free her. ... Is the real message of this movie “Adopt Don’t Shop?”
51. Wait, was I almost right in the beginning? Mark Strong saved Cruella and revealed that she’s the Baroness’s secret daughter! Am I a genius or was this an incredibly obvious connection? (Let’s go with: Both.)
52. Did they use de-aging technology on Emma Thompson and Mark Strong for this flashback? What was the CGI budget here?
53. How are there still 45 minutes left in this movie?
54. Am I allowed to fast-forward through the Talking To Her Dead Mom Who Is Not Actually Her Mom And Realizing Things About Herself Monologue?
55. OK, she just broke her guys out of jail and somehow the dogs are still with them. How have the guys kept track of the dogs this whole time, all over London? I can’t go a day without losing my cat in my bedroom.
56. Was it a conflict of interest to have a cat person write this blog?
57. “Thank you for the crumpets and the crazy story,” the same eternally tired henchman says to Cruella. Again, do you want to hang out, my guy?
58. How is there another gala we have to go to before the end of this movie? Maybe pre-pandemic me would be up for a multi-party movie, but as it is I’m exhausted just watching these people socialize.
59. Did we need an explanation for the last name “de Vil?” Of course they were going to give us one (she takes it from a Cadillac DeVille) but like … we didn’t really need one, right?
60. How did Cruella convince every single person at this party to wear identical, hideous Cruella drag? I could understand everyone showing up in the same Madewell dress or something—happens to the best of us—but these black-and-white beehives?
61. Are Dalmations actually used as attack dogs? Should I be afraid of them in real life after this? Because I think I am now.
62. How is it humanly possible that I’m watching Emma Stone and Emma Thompson ham it up face to face in a haute-couture final showdown and ... I’m bored? A cinematic achievement, honestly.
63. So at the end, the Baroness pushes Cruella off a cliff—how poignant and predictable!—but everyone sees it and she goes to jail while Cruella parachutes to safety and then ... adopts the Baroness’s Dalmatians? Maybe my memory is faulty, but doesn’t that go against the entire point of the original character?
64. Are you telling me that, in 101 Dalmatians, Cruella de Vil was not a fur harvester? She simply liked Dalmatians?
65. What message are we sending our children if they’re now supposed to see that the villain in 101 Dalmatians—an old lady who STEALS AND PRESUMABLY KILLS DOGS—is actually good?
66. Ah, finally, the end. How to sum up my experience?
Thank you, Aretha Franklin.