It’s been 25 years since Glenn Close terrified/seduced an entire generation of children (just ask Pete Davidson) in 101 Dalmatians. Now, a new Disney film takes us all the way back to the beginning of her story, presumably to explain how a young 1970s London fashion designer turned into the kind of person who hires a pair of hitmen to kidnap, murder and skin her employee’s dogs. World, meet your new Cruella De Vil: Emma Stone in combat boots.
Set in a punk rock universe that looks as subversive as the graffiti you’d find in a suburban mall food court, Cruella seeks to either A) tap into our already existing and very twisted love for a very bad woman, or B) make us feel bad for and/or understand a villain whose appeal lay in her complete and total mystery.
Option A is in the vein of Birds of Prey, Cathy Yan’s 2020 Harley Quinn spinoff, which didn’t seek to make us feel sorry for Harley so much as to revel in a woman who just wanted to be messy and bad. As for Option B — down that road lies Todd Phillips’ Joker, which took us through Arthur Fleck’s journey from lonely, depressed clown to psychotic killer with a bloodlust for Batman.
From the looks of the Cruella trailer, it feels like we’re about to see someone dancing down some stairs.The vibe is Joker meets Panic! At The Disco, with a dash of Maleficent for good measure. In a raspy voiceover, Stone-as-Cruella explains that she always knew there was something a little different about her.“I wasn’t for everyone,” she says. “I guess they were always scared I’d be….a psycho.” Cue villain cackle.
The 90-second teaser goes on to show its anti-heroine morphing into her iconic persona like some poisonous butterfly. She starts out as a red-head, before dramatically debuting her signature two-toned black and white hairdo at some sort of gala. Clown chic, if you will.
Director Craig Gillespie, who also helmed 2017’s I,Tonya, is no stranger to anti-heroines, and it looks like this movie will have more than one to choose from. The trailer also gives us a glimpse of another fabulous Emma — Thompson, this time — as a woman young Cruella seems to seems to look up to and hate in equal measure. What’s more, Close herself is listed as an executive producer, which gives some hope that we can look forward to the gleeful madness that punctuated her performance.
The very concept of this movie puzzles me. How exactly is Disney going to justify animal abuse by way of feminism? And why even attempt it? The trailer doesn’t explain any of that, nor what exactly happened to make Cruella the way she is — although it does imply that, unlike a Maybelline commercial, she was indeed born with it. “I was born brilliant,” Stone coos, “born bad, and a little bit mad!”
I'll admit, I'm cautiously intrigued. Cruella hits theaters on May 28. Watch the full trailer below: