Cruella ★★

I’m front-loading the criticism, so brace yourself, I guess: I think that a lot of this movie looks worse than some Asylum pictures I’ve seen, no-contrast low-light scenes that look like too much of it was shot on green screen and they couldn’t figure out how to make it look like nighttime so they just pulled the brightness slider all the way down, dalmatians made of Flubber like they couldn’t figure out how to make the dogs do what they wanted 90% of the time so they just made them out of 1s and 0s, and from a story perspective there’s just no reason for this to have any relation to 101 Dalmatians, the whole concept of writing backstory for a character that’s better left without it is fundamentally misguided, everything connecting this film to the Disney Live-Action Cinematic Universe just feels like a hollow corporate product engineered to within an inch of its life to squeeze every last $30 Disney Plus Premier Access fee out of the audience’s nostalgia-wallets, but — but! — the parts of the film that rise up above the gray melted-plastic visual aesthetic and the shameless franchise-filmmaking to become an Emma v Emma Devil Wears Prada supervillain origin story about rejecting your rotten upper-class biological family of dishonest aristocrats and embracing your humble lower-class chosen family of lovable street urchins, about evicting the bloodthirsty fashion-bourgeoisie from their pretentious mansion of cultural influence Knives Out–style and staging a rock-concert insurrection, those parts are great, those parts feel like something genuine and new, those parts feel like the five writers (5!) took the meager scraps of cloth they were given and fabricated something original and authentic.

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