Originally published on Sumner Newscow on June 6, 2021
We’ve been treated to some great “fun” movies so far this year from Mortal Kombat to Godzilla vs. Kong, and Cruella sits comfortably in that tier. By “fun,” I’m referring to movies that don’t ask too much of their viewers; these movies look you in the eyes and say “we don’t have a real message and barely a plot, but you’re going to enjoy yourself.”
Cruella is an origin story for a villain whose identity up to this point has been wanting to skin dogs. No one was asking for this woman’s backstory; we were more than happy to accept her ludicrous motivations as just something a Disney villain would want and move along.
No one was asking, except for one group that is: queer men.
The gays love a fabulous villain
Queer men’s infatuation with Cruella de Vil stems from a couple of key factors. She’s a fashion designer who chains smokes and wears too much makeup. She was masterfully played by gay icon Glenn Close. There are other reasons, but all the key factor behind the draw is the concept of camp.
So, what did Disney do with a character with a cult following, that they currently aren’t doing anything with? The same thing they always do; capitalize. The company who owns everything isn’t known for leaving free money on the table and in the age where every villain gets their own movie, it was the obvious choice.
Enter: Emma Stone. Stone is a Hollywood darling who recently played a pseudo-villain to much acclaim in Yorgos Lanthimos’ the Favourite. She’s a force on the screen and Cruella was the perfect chance to let her run away with a character.
It’s unsurprising that Stone is an executive producer due to the outsized influence she has over the film. She has an outsized presence even as the protagonist in a movie named after her character. Cruella gives no fewer than four monologues (to no one in two cases) and that doesn’t even include the narration she also covers. To call this movie an Emma Stone vehicle would be a criminal understatement.
Wait, I know this story…
The plot itself is almost nonsensical, but that’s hardly the point. Cruella’s origin story recreates the character as a penniless orphan with a heart of gold, a knack for thievery, and an exceptional eye for fashion. With that set of character attributes, the stage is nicely set for what Disney really meant to do with this movie: recreate 2006’s the Devil Wears Prada.
As I’ve already said, Disney created this movie to pander to queer men. The best way to do so is to redo one of our favorite movies of all time. 2006 was a long time ago, though, and there’s a new generation who didn’t grow up with the film. Rather than literally recreate it, why not do all the same beats, but add in a fun revenge plot and a few heists?
New faces, same characters
Don’t believe me that it’s nearly identical? Look no further than the characters:
Anne Hathaway seeds her role as the rising star in the fashion world who struggles to balance her old life with her new one to Emma Stone.
Emma Thompson replaced Meryl Streep as the fabulous and renowned fashion designer who is too self-absorbed to see she’s past her prime.
Stanley Tucci has transformed into Mark Strong as the boss’ (bald) confidant who takes a liking to the new kid.
Even the boyfriend character Nate from Devil Wears Prada is echoed by Joel Fry’s henchman/friend routine as the boy who misses the “old” Cruella.
But, just like its predecessor and inspiration, Cruella isn’t a movie just for queer men; it’s for everyone. It’s a B movie that prioritized fun and excitement over challenging moral questions, which is really what we need after that past year.
The soundtrack is complete with 70’s punk and classic rock (including an excellent Beatles cover). Stone’s performance, while overbearing, is captivating to the point of excess. The montage of Cruella’s attempts to steal the spotlight from her boss is on par with Godzilla and Kong’s final fight sequence in terms of sheer entertainment value.
Being bad does look good
Leave your worries at the door, grab a beer, popcorn, and Buncha Crunch from the concession stand, and enjoy the show. Because after the truly abysmal year we just suffered, there isn’t a better medicine than campy cinema.
Lots of companies change their Twitter logos for Pride, but only Disney released 2021’s Cruella.