Cruella

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. How are you doing right now? Charlotte trading ba ba, ba ba. I am. What’s in the box? Yo, yo, yo, yo.

S2: Hello and welcome to another Slate spoiler special, I am Dana Stevens, Slate’s movie critic. And today I am joined by Karen Harned, staff writer at Slate. Hello, Karen.

S3: Hi, Dana. So nice to spoil another movie with you.

S2: Yeah, I think this is going to be a fun one to talk about. I just read your review and lots to say about it. So the movie we’re talking about this week is Cruella the Origin Story for the 101 Dalmatians character directed by Craig Gillespie, the new, you know, Disney cartoon turned live action movie. I don’t know what we’re calling this genre that now exists, but there are several examples of every year. Yeah, but yeah, it’s a it’s a reboot of the old Cruella Ippy. So I just saw this movie today and just read your review for it and I have tons of thoughts about it. But since you’re the person who reviewed it, I may ask you to set up the story a little bit. The main thing that I think we should talk about up top, and this in a way proceeds whether you’ve seen the movie or not. I mean, this happened as soon as the idea was released. And the poster in the trailer is the idea of whether you can do the thing that this movie is doing. Take an old Disney character and tell their origin story when that character is a villain, basically. Can you do a Disney joker? And that joke was everywhere on the Internet when you first found out about this movie. But I really do. And this is not as it turns out, you know, it is not that dark and gritty which will get into you. But I’m interested before we get into this movie itself, what you think about that as a concept, what you think about the idea of taking somebody who honestly just wants to skin puppets. That’s all we know about Cruella De Vil in her in her previous movie versions. And in the book, by the way, wonderful book by Jody Smith about Cruella De Vil doesn’t give her any back story. I mean, it says she’s married to a furrier and she loves fur. That’s all we know about her. And she’s mean and bad. We don’t have to know why. But in this new world of gritty origin stories, we do need to know why. And I just wonder what your thoughts are on that cultural trend.

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S3: I mean, I think I’ve seen a lot of tweets to this effect where it’s like let bad guys be bad. And for the most part, I do agree with that, where I feel like especially for something like the original 101 Dalmatians, where it’s a pretty simple story, like I don’t necessarily think you need a villain who has very complicated motivations, like the fact that Corella, especially like in the animated movie, is such a distinctive looking character with her half black, half white hair, that black and white tendency for color, the fact that she’s so obsessed with like skinning these puppies is good enough for me for that movie. But like, I guess the idea of trying to explore these characters further is interesting to me, but definitely not something that I think you can do at Disney. Like the whole whatever you think of the mouse house, it’s usually pretty family friendly, pretty sanitized, pretty complacent, isn’t quite the right word, but I think, you know what I mean, where it’s like it’s supposed to please everyone. It’s never going to be really divisive. And if you are going to stick to that kind of crowd pleasing mindset, I think that doing a villain origin story is something that’s not really going to pan out as well as you probably want it to, which I think is the case for this, where, like, it’s a fun movie, but I don’t I don’t think it works as a villain origin story because I feel like they keep taking pains at every turn to be like, oh, but you still feel bad for her or like, oh, but she’s still kind of good at heart. And there’s never a moment where they’re like, oh yeah, she’s like a bad person.

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S2: Right. Even though she does some things, I mean, puppy skinning aside. And we can get into whether or not that happens in this movie or how much it seems like she’s ready to start doing it and, you know, and killing in general. But, you know, just some of the interpersonal things she does in this movie are really terrible. And she never really has to atone for them. So we can get into what some of those are. But but maybe first we should set up what this Cruella who this Cruella is when we first meet her at the beginning of the movie. And I have to say, you reference The Devil Wears Prada in your interview, which we’ll get into when we get into the Bad Boss, played by Emma Thompson. It is a bad boss movie in many ways and a movie about fashion. But at the beginning, the movie or other TV show that it most reminded me of this as far as the you know, the early setup where she’s still a little girl was the Queen’s Gambit, you know. I mean, there was sort of this set up of this exceptional little girl who had this, you know, who didn’t fit in and who is orphaned at the beginning of the movie and who we sort of see positioned as someone who’s going to be kind of unusually powerful. And you don’t know whether her power will go to the good or the bad side.

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S3: Yeah. And I mean, I find it interesting that you bring up the Queen’s Gambit, because I found the two properties compared on Twitter for a different reason as well, which I feel like will probably get into later, which is that it tends to be like the story of a white woman genius and all the people of color around her kind of being tools to that effect, like not really being fleshed out characters, which I tend to agree with, but definitely wasn’t as mad about here, mostly because it’s a cartoon movie. Like, there’s not too much to really pick at in that respect.

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S2: Right. I mean, it doesn’t take place in much of a sociological universe that we can really recognize, although it does date itself. It’s places itself, I guess. Once you allow for her growing up, right, it starts out in the 60s, it’s sort of in the early 70s, which fashion wise makes a lot of sense, because as you talk about in your review, there’s a sort of Malcolm McLaren like fashion designer and purveyor character. There’s kind of a punk scene is a little bit like late Carnaby Street. I mean, fashion wise, it’s set at a wonderful moment. And I have to say that the best thing this movie does is the clothes. And since I have a movie about clothes, that really makes it a very long way, that really actually pleased me. I mean, the fact that it takes clothes so seriously and displays them so gorgeously is to be made for the most thrilling moments of the movie, like the incredible garbage truck dress, which I think is worth seeing the movie just for that alone, the huge train of garbage that kind of trails behind her in one scene. So let’s let’s go back to the beginning. Who is cool when we first meet? Her name is not Cruella yet, for one thing.

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S3: Yeah. So when we first meet her, she’s a little a little girl named Estella. It turns out that she’s just been born with half black, half white hair so that they just get that out of the way. Australia, it’s not that she dies it or that it’s some trauma induced roguelike, hair whitening. It just is the way it is.

S2: Right. We see her as an infant. And then from the book, too, there’s a moment when the owner of the Dalmatians, Mrs Darling, says, I went to school with her and she had one white plats and one black.

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S3: So yeah. So we get to see her like in school. And we also see, Anita, that you just mentioned, like in the movie as well, and they’re sort of friends in school. But Estella definitely has a slightly more rebellious streak or outspoken streak. And whenever she tends to indulge, her mother calls that cruel, like her mother uses that as a sort of nickname to refer to, like her bad behaviour, basically saying, like, let’s put Cruella away, like, let’s not let her out and let’s remain Estella the good one of the two. But she ends up getting kicked out of school anyway. Or they pull the classic like, you can’t fire me. I quit, move and leave. And as they’re about to go to London, the two of them stop in at a party where it seems like her mother is going to ask a favour of someone. They’re probably like asking for money or some kind of support for their new life. Estella, who is told to stay in the car, ends up leaving and going into the party anyway because it looks so glamorous and then ends up witnessing her mother tumbling off of a cliff as she talks to their supposed benefactor, which is a huge moment of trauma for her because she thinks that it’s her fault for having snuck into the party and having accidentally attracted the attention of some very rowdy Dalmatians.

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S2: Yes, that is an important thing in this early scene, which gave me a very bad feeling about the movie that turned out not to be too true. They didn’t make too much out of it. But the idea of turning Dalmatians evil just seems like an extremely weak plot point to make you understand its motivations. There do happen to be three vicious Dalmatians that belong to the villain character here, the Emma Thompson character. But I don’t think I don’t think an argument is being made that all Dalmatians are bad luck to other dog characters who are, you know, typical Disney dog sidekicks who are adorable and

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S3: helpful, obsessed with them.

S2: Yeah, well, actually, good dog acting. Yeah. Whoever was doing the dog wrangling did an excellent, excellent job. So then we get Stella, the young koala, this orphan running away with her cute dog, escaping from this party with the vicious Dalmatians where her mother followed her death off a cliff. And the next place we meet her is in London, where she and her mother were headed in the first place to start their new life. And she shows up at this fountain, you know, completely bereft and meets these two young boys. And here, if you are familiar with your 101 Dalmatians property, you’ll recognize their names, Jasper and Horace, who are the two henchmen of Cruella De Vil in the in the Disney cartoon. Right. But they’re very, very different in this movie. I mean, in terms of their relationship to her, because at least when we first meet them, they’re not just sort of her bumbling henchmen who carry out her every move. They are fellow orphans who kind of adopt her into their alternate family.

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S3: They’re very, very cute. I all have always had a soft spot for Jasper and Horace as someone who tends to love, like the character actor roles in any given movie, but especially in this movie, I think the way that like by necessity of having Cruella as a protagonist of this movie, they also have to make Jasper horse more sympathetic and especially like so after she meets Jasper and Horace, we pretty much immediately hit a timescape where it’s like ten or so years later, where they’re all working together as a small time con artists. But the grown up Jasper is played by Joel Frye, and the grown up horse is played by Paul Walter Houser. And both of them are so great in their roles. Walter Houser is, like always, a very dependable, colorful presence in any movie like. Have you seen the other movie that Craig Gillespie is really known for? I know you’ll remember that he was played a very, very big role in that movie to a very big impact because of the matter is that he gave to his character. And Joel Frye here is definitely a little less eccentric as Jasper and almost poised as a romantic interest, but not quite.

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S2: Yeah, this is sort of what I mean about the cruelty of her character being almost a. Overestimated, estimated, you know, I mean, there’s a lot of attention paid to whether or not she’s going to kill puppies and how she’s going to get revenge on the Emma Thompson character. But there’s not that much attention paid to the absolutely horrific way that she treats Jasper.

S3: And she’s so mean.

S2: And there are a couple of scenes, as you say, where Jasper played by Joel Frye, whose position does being a little bit in love with her, basically sits her down and says, we’re really disappointed in what you’ve become. Right. And and it doesn’t really seem like the movie takes that seriously, that she has turned her basically her family, the people that she calls herself, her family, her adopted, you know, alternate family into her servants and treat them really horribly as the movie goes on. So that’s just one of the ways in which this movie, I feel like it’s not mean spirited, but it’s kind of morally muddled.

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S3: It doesn’t know how to accept the fact that Cruella is evil, like especially because I think it doesn’t know how to balance Estella and Cruella, because the whole idea of Estella is that she’s very meek and that’s why she’s not really getting anywhere in life. So, as I mentioned, like, they’re now small time con artists and Estella is using her obsession with fashion to basically make costumes for them to help pulling off their small Griff’s easier. But Jasper, knowing that she really is like really wants to get into fashion, manages to land her a job at a famous department store. And while she’s there, she’s like, I’m going to be good and I’m going to, like, put my head down and work, which is exactly what she does. As unfortunately, basically just the maid or the janitor is mostly like cleaning the bathrooms and things like that and trying to talk to the manager to tell him her ideas for like they’re window displays. But what actually eventually launches her into the fashion world is she gets really drunk and she just wrecks one of the window displays and turns it into this very punk kind of art piece. And that ends up attracting the attention of the baroness.

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S2: Right. The baroness played by Emma Thompson, who is this very Miranda Priestly like kind of fashion designer figure who then takes Corella or it’s still then called a Stella into her own house of a fashion?

S3: Yeah. And I have to say, I do love the Baroness as a character. It’s sort of funny because I feel like part of the reason that she is so Miranda Priestly ask is because they like the filmmakers, like we have to have someone who is meaner than Carella eventually become so that you don’t. And so it’s not like why is she mad at this person to begin with? But yeah, I mean, as soon as Estella ends up in the Baroness fashion house, it’s immediately evident just how much of a tyrant she is. Like they have all the mannequins decked out in cast in outfits that the designers have made like all in a row. And she just walks down them being like, this is stupid, like you’re fired. I hate this. And then when she comes across Estella’s idea, she, like, whips out a razor and just immediately cuts it and even cuts Stella and doesn’t seem to blink twice at the fact that she’s actually drawn blood from one of her employees.

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S2: Right. In fact, she sends the assistant out to get a fabric sample in exactly the colour, which is a good little moment. And I do have to say that in terms of the writing for the Baroness, the kind of jokes about how mean she is are usually pretty funny.

S3: Um, she carries it off really well. I think if anyone understood the assignment in this movie, it’s Emma Thompson. She’s so good. There was never a moment where I was like I was a little cranky. Like this for me is a very compelling argument for her to be in a Paddington movie like she’s so committed to this very, very over-the-top bit as it becomes evident to the baroness that she Estella is a very talented designer. She gets closer and closer to her and one day ends up noticing that the baroness is wearing a very, very familiar necklace. So the necklace that she has is one that still remembers from her childhood as one that her mother had owned and had called a family heirloom. So the fact that it’s in the baroness hands is something that’s very, very confusing for her. Like she doesn’t know why she has it and immediately assumes that something shady is going on, despite the fact that this is her dream opportunity. It’s now a matter of like, do I pursue just working with the baroness and becoming a part of this couture house or do I try to investigate what happened in my past?

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S2: Right. I think at the beginning it’s not even implied that she knows that that necklace will will be the key to what happened in her past. It’s just simply that it represents her mother and the last day of her mother’s that she had in fact, it was lost in that scuffle at the very beginning where her mother falls over the cliff. But that ends up escalating her her desire to steal the necklace back with Horace and Jasper. And what I think is a really well edited and fun sort of heist sequence at a party ends up leading to a whole new layer of of reasons, too, to pursue the barrier.

S3: Yeah, yeah. So the whole idea of the heist at the party is that she will let Cruella out for a night as a distraction in order to let Jasper and Horace steal the jewel without too much trouble. But as this chaos is unfolding, she sees the baroness use a whistle to basically sit her dogs on somebody else and is like, Oh, wait. I remember from that night the Dalmatians are coming after me, but the baroness was blowing that whistle and directing them towards my mother and it’s this memory that’s now recontextualize where she’s like, oh, the baroness killed my mother. Like, it wasn’t my fault that she fell off that cliff, like this was a murder. So now she has, as you mentioned, like even more reason to go after this woman.

S2: Right. And she also has her very first dognapping incident of the Cuello that we we know from the classic 101 Dalmatians story, because one of the things that happens during the heist at the party is that one of the evil Dalmatians belonging to the Baron eats the precious necklace. So then we get this kind of extended dog poop joke where she has to kidnap all three of the dogs, have or have horse and do it and just keep them until one or the other of them poops the necklace back out.

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S3: Yeah. And this is sort of a budded by an extended sort of Cruella montage where like because she’s now feeling very hurt and very angry towards the baroness, she lets Corella more often, especially because she makes a splash in the press for kind of how dramatic she is. So we see, like all these different instances of her basically crashing the baroness parties and showing up in more fabulous outfits and trying to upstage her to get her to pay attention.

S2: Right. I mean, that sort of falls into your classic makeover montage, right? Like wowing people with your fashion montage cliche. But I will say that those parts of the movie are really propulsive and energetic. They’re not the most original thing in the world. Yeah, but but they’re part of the fun of watching this movie. I believe the song that accompanies that montage you’re talking about. There might be a couple, but I believe it’s the clashes. Should I stay or should I go that accompanies that montage. And maybe it’s a moment to talk about the needle drops in this movie, which are in a way really good, because the songs are well chosen and energetic. But it really gets so absurd. As you say in your review, it starts to feel like an extended music video.

S3: Yeah, I mean, I first I feel like this is sort of a Craig Glasby like trademark at this point. What I actually should mention, I’m not sure if it’s a hard or soft G, but anyway, it’s sort of a trademark of his at this point that like wraps into the very kind of kinetic visual style that he likes to do. But just from the moment, I think it was at the moment when Estrela first steps into the baroness as fashion house that I was like, I’ve heard like five songs in a row, like five famous pop songs and different actions. And like this just feels like needle drop after needle drop after needle drop. And like that does not cease for the entire movie, which is sort of a pity because the score is by Nicholas Patel, who, as we all know, is a genius.

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S2: I’ll always loved because he composed the theme for the Slate culture gabfest that I want every week. I didn’t

S3: know that.

S2: Yeah, he’s a he’s a friend of our co-host, Julia Turner. So back before he was the succession guy, he composed our little wabster. Wow. But yeah, there’s not enough room for that score to breathe or for just silence to breathe or interactions between the characters. And even though those songs were really toe tapping and I would like to, you know, have a playlist of this movie’s songs, they really were distracting from the narrative and it got to be too much.

S3: I will say there was one that really, really made me laugh. So it all kind of comes to a head when, as the baroness, I’m skipping a little bit of story, but you’re not really missing anything. It all comes to a head as the baroness figures out who Cruella is because she’s become a huge thorn in the baroness side. So there’s a big fashion show coming up and it still manages to sabotage it by creating this dress that seems to have all these beautiful gold jewels attached to it. But when in reality they’re moth eggs, basically like eggs of bugs that will eat fabric. And in order to secure all the clothes, that girl can’t steal them. The baroness puts all these wonderful dresses in a vault. The vault ends up locked like they end up not being able to open the vault. But when they do, a bunch of moths fly out. All the dresses have been just completely ruined. And this is sort of like almost as the last straw. Except Carol keeps going further because then after the dresses are totally ruined, she stages the sort of punk fashion show right outside. The baroness has to show off her clothes that she’s designed and basically stick it in the baroness face. Unfortunately, the baroness henchman managed to follow Jasper and Horace back to Kuryla HQ, I guess, where they promptly tie up Cruella and leave her to die by burning down the house. And that moment they play that song Smile. And I could not not laugh just because I was like, this is like I’ve had enough great songs. And that in particular felt so much like I was trying to be like, but we could be like Joker, you know, like because I think they use that song in that movie as well. And it’s a very at this point, almost trite thing to do to play like this very sweet song over a moment of violence or deep emotional distress.

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S2: Yeah, well, I mean, it’s that there’s so many movies that we could call out for, for this particular sin. Right. But it’s taking that Scorsese thing that Scorsese he did not maybe not first, but, you know, famously well in movies like Goodfellas. And yes, splashing up a sentimental song during a violent scene, I think it’s the Judy Garland version of Smile in that scene and I agree it took away from the emotional power like more than think. Also, that scene is supposed to be this big, suspenseful moment that we think Jasper Horse and Carell are going to die because the bareness sets fire to the to the HQ. But we know there’s not the arch because there’s at least an hour left in the movie at that point. So, you know, there’s something about the pacing of that moment that that felt off anyway.

S3: So the crucial part of the house burning down is the fact that we’ve previously we’ve been introduced to basically the Baroness henchmen, John, played by Mark Strong, whom I love so much. I’m so happy to see him in anything else.

S2: He’s a very. It’s that guy. Oh, yes.

S3: He’s so, so great. I wish he would get more leading roles, but I I’ll take what I can get for now. So up to this point, we see him as a kind of a foil to the baroness where she’s very, very outsized in behaviour and very mean. And he while he is basically her valet, he’s still pretty calm and tends to have a level head about things. But the twist here is that John is the one who gets Corella out of the fire. He saves her and it ends up being because he was there the night of her mother’s death and actually knows the story, the true story of Corella, which is that Estella is actually the baroness, his daughter Pupper.

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S2: And here’s where we get to that kind of eugenic tendency in blockbusters.

S3: He’s right in saying

S2: this idea from Star Wars and other places that everybody has to have some kind of blood lineage in order to really have any desire for vengeance or sense of ancestry. And the idea that your found family or your adopted mother is not your real mother. There was a part of me that cringed away at that moment when when she Estella goes back to the fountain where she goes to talk to her dead mom throughout the movie, it’s sort of like the place that she goes to grieve her and says, you weren’t my real mom. I could just imagine all kinds of adoptees and adoptive parents in the theater cringing away.

S3: I completely agree. And like, when I was like, I’m I’m a genius, but I’m also mad. I must have gotten it from my mother. It’s like that’s not how that works. But you don’t get that from your mom. You didn’t even grow up with her. So you wouldn’t have any exposure to that kind of behavior. So you wouldn’t anyway. It’s so silly. But the point of being the baroness had a daughter, didn’t want a daughter, told John to get to take care of it. Basically, John

S2: is really dark. By the way, the flashback where you see that happening for a Disney movie, I mean, more so than almost anything that that Cruella comes up with in her plan. You say they’re always softening her character. Yeah. The way that Emma Thompson plays being pregnant and not wanting to be pregnant and basically telling her henchmen to kill her baby is really intense. I mean, it makes me think that if I had a little kid, I would probably not take them to this movie. I think it needs to be nine or 10 and have a little bit of a dark side.

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S3: Yeah, but obviously, John is like, I’m not going to kill this baby. And so he gives her to one of the maids at the house who he describes as the sweetest woman ever, and which is why Estella grows up with just her mother. And presumably the reason that she came back was to be like, hey, like your daughter is still alive and we do need a little bit of money to keep living. But the baroness obviously does not take this well and as we saw at the beginning, has her thrown off a cliff by three Dalmatians.

S2: So now we’ve gotten basically twist upon twist upon twist and gotten the final motivation for revenge on the part of Estella who’s becoming more and more cruel as as the movie goes on as her henchmen. You know, Jasper and Horace keep noting to her, like, you could go back to being your sort of nice shlumpy self, you know, designing clothes. But no, she is actually kind of glorying in her in her new self. And then she starts to cook up her big final plan for revenge on the baroness. So here’s a moment when Anita darling, who if you know the original hundred one Dalmatians was, you know, the Dalmatian owning lady comes back into the picture because here she is, a reporter, a sort of a gossip columnist who reports on fashion and and on the baroness for the tabloids. She’s reporting the story, which we see on headlines all over the world that Cruella De Vil has died in this warehouse fire and therefore the baroness decides to throw a party in her honor. But Corella comes up with a plan, which actually I kind of love this plan, that she and Jasper and Horse are going to ship clothes to every invitee of the party, essentially said that they all come dressed as Cruella and sort of pretending that that’s the baroness is will like in honor of Cruella. Let’s all come in costume as her, which, of course, makes it impossible to pick out that the real person is actually going to be there. Mm.

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S3: I thought that was funny though because her hair ultimately is not in the same do as the rest of the guest attendees like her hair still kind of curly, whereas all the other week that they’ve given out are pretty strange. I was like ultimately how hard is that to pick out anyway. That’s just a minor quibble.

S2: It does make for a great look though, and we haven’t chatted up the designers name yet. Jenny Beavan, who reviewed did. The Mad Max Fury Road costumes as well, but yeah, the costumes in this movie are costumes that don’t just look great, but that have to tell a lot of story. They’d have to really signify, like that moth dress that you mentioned earlier. And and they’re really brilliant. I mean, I don’t know if it’s going to be too far away when Oscar time comes for anyone to think about, about Jenny Beavan for a best costume design. But this movie is really begging for it.

S3: She deserves it. I mean, especially I think like Kora’s, dresses are obviously very fun and punk. But I was I think I was more taken with the stuff at the Baroness, whereas because like in a few interviews like Genevieve and has mentioned taking inspiration from vintage Dior, and you can kind of tell, like with the very statuesque shapes of the dresses, like she just looks so glamorous. It’s hard not to be wowed by her whenever you see her.

S2: Yeah, they’re really sculptural dresses. I mean, that was a dress made me think of Alexander McQueen, who made dresses out of feathers and things like that. You know, the idea of taking these or not wasps, but moth eggs and turning them into this beaded looking dress is just kind of evilly brilliant.

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S3: Yeah. So gross. Yeah. And I will also mention that, like, Anita is in the movie and so is Roger for all you 101 Dalmatians heads, he’s introduced as the Bernice’s lawyer and is fired, obviously, because Carella keeps upstaging her and she doesn’t understand why he can’t sue her for defamation, basically played by a Kayvan Novak, who is so great, so cute, but barely a character, really,

S2: really kind of a throwaway character. And if you’re trying to use your IP to the max and shout out all the characters everyone recognizes, they could have done a better job with Roger because I didn’t even put together that. That was Roger, darling. And the fact that I now know it is makes me fear that they’re setting up a sequel where we see him and Anita get married and start getting Dalmatian puppies and get back to square one again.

S3: Well, there is a huge, very sinister question hanging over those Dalmatian puppies, but we’ll get to that at the end of it. So now we’re at this party where the baroness and her henchmen are having trouble finding Cruella because everyone is dressed like her. But Carol ends up calling her to the same place where her mother was killed so many years ago. Except this time she’s dressed as a Stella in order to confront the baroness about her true heritage. And so they have this very they have a heart to heart with the baroness saying, like, I’ve always wanted to have someone as brilliant as me around, like, I’m so thankful to have found you again. And they hug. And then the baroness pushes her off the cliff and all the party guests see it. And she’s immediately arrested for murdering Estella. But the twist, which is very bahlmann story, I don’t know if you watched it, Dana, but

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S2: watched it loved it.

S3: The the culottes reminded me a lot of that because basically that’s true.

S2: Parachute pants.

S3: Yeah, because Astellas dress has a parachute built into it because she knew that the baroness was going to betray her. So as she goes over the cliff, she pulls the parachute. She’s rescued by Jaspar and Horus, and then she reappears at the party as Cruella because nobody else knows that the two of them are the same person. Even the baroness now being taken away is like you don’t understand, like Cruella and Estelle are the same person.

S2: So she’s faked the death of her own double bass or faked her own death and become her double.

S3: Exactly. Which raises a lot of questions about Social Security and things like that. But anyway, I assume she’s got to figure it out.

S2: So she also, as a result of her legal machinations that she took care of before designing this parachute dress to save her life, willed her own money to Cruella. Right. So Estella, the real person, will her house and money, which, of course, are the baroness, is house and money to her fictional self. So at the end, we also see her inheriting in the movie. It’s called Helmond Hall, but we see her taking off the man part of the sign. And so it is then called Hellhole once again, Dhoti Smith shout out. That’s the name of her abode in the original book.

S3: Yeah. And we see everyone there happily ever after Cruella, Jasper, Horace and John now as well, and the three Dalmatians who now listen to Cruella as well as the other dogs. So we briefly mentioned that Jasper and Horace already have a dog that I do want to shout out as another MVP of this movie. So Horace has a little Chihuahua named Wink and who is a little Chihuahua who wears an eye patch, which is really the cutest thing that you can do with a Chihuahua. And there is one point where, as we mentioned previously, Jasper and horror’s as they’re trying to steal the necklace way back in the party, one of the distractions that they use is to dress up as a rat, which I mean, I love that so much that he was so cute, which is I mean, not necessarily a comment on the narrative. I just thought that dog was so cute and

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S2: he’s doing well again. I mean, that’s the stuff that the movie gets. Right. And that’s why I think for the right age kid, it would be a good movie, even if the moral that it leaves you with his a little bit iffy because it’s full of jaunty action fund dogs and and beautiful clothes. Yeah. So we’ve gotten to the happily ever after, which is a kind of evil happily ever after. Right. I mean, the last we hear of correlatives, I think the very last line of the movie is something like, you know, one of the henchmen says, what do we do next? And she says, I have some ideas. Right. So you assume that she’s already beginning to scheme for her next plan.

S3: It’s so weird, though, because it’s like, again, she’s just a lady who likes fur. It’s not like she was ever like this famous con artist or anything. But anyway. Yeah, I digress.

S2: Yeah. The idea of what sort of world they’re setting up, which I hear whose movie does well, we’re going to find out in the sequel. I mean, I keep saying I fear a sequel even though I enjoyed the movie. But I think that this is just an example of one of those movies that didn’t need to exist is better than it needs to be or could have been, but really doesn’t need to spawn any further puppy movies.

S3: I agree.

S2: But I think the big question hanging over it that I want to return to is kind of the one we started off with, which is like, would this woman skin puppies? And and does the fact that we don’t know whether she would skin puppies or not and we’re sort of, you know, always kept in suspension about that fact, make the movie somewhat unpalatable. Right. I mean, there’s a moment early on where she shows up at a runway show and she’s wearing this gorgeous coat, also sort of a sculptural Dior kind of shaped coat that seems to be made of Emma Thompson’s dogs. And you see, you know, the baroness say something like, she’s killed my dogs and skinned them. But as it turns out, it’s artificial fur. She never really did skin a dog. I mean, when it comes down to it, that is kind of the moral question of this movie for all the awful things that you see her doing, we don’t see her harming an innocent animal. And yet the whole reason that we want to go see the movie in the first place is we know Cruella De Vil harms puppies. So I just wonder what you think about, like, that place that the viewer is stuck in.

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S3: I mean, I would say that the reason that I wanted to see this is not because I was like, I want to see a woman’s skin puppies, but it’s definitely like that. That’s the one trait that Cruella De Vil has as a character, at least prior to this. Right, where it’s like she will skin a dog to make a coat like that is the ethos. Have Cruella De Vil and the fact that it backs off of it here does feel a little like it chickens out ultimately because like the Dalmatians end up as her friends. And at the end of the movie, like she does, one of the Dalmatians has puppies and she’s like she gives them away one to Annita, one to Roger, which, as I mentioned, privies in the podcast brings up the question of are the main Dalmatians inbred like their brother, brother and sister? What is going on?

S2: Our Pongo and Perdita siblings is like

S3: they are what is happening. But like it’s the same thing is where the ending is like, oh, like we’re cool thieves now we’re going to have a cool five time instead of we’re even though, like, as you mentioned, she treats Jasper and Horace really, really badly. She takes them for granted. She really passes them around, is not nice to them. And even after Jasper is like, hey, you need to, like, dial down this behavior. She doesn’t really it’s just one point. She’s like, hey, I’m sorry for my behavior. And then immediately goes back to doing exactly that.

S2: Right. And if you really want to spin this into the Dalmatian, as you call it, and you you and make this be in in a continuity with what happens in the cartoon version of the movie, then we have to flash forward a few years later where she’s calling them idiots. Right. And ordering them around like her servants. And my heart just goes out to Joel Fry and Paul Waterhouse’s.

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S3: Yeah. I mean, it’s just a villain origin story that’s afraid of being a villain origin story. Like, it just wants to be about like a fun, like girl boss, basically, which is a problem in and of itself. But yeah, it just. I mean, it’s the problem that exists with every remake or reboot or reworking of a pre-existing IP where so much of the time when I’m watching those movies, I feel like this would be better if it was just original material and if it wasn’t tied to this other thing. Whereas, like, I feel like this would have been fine if it was just like look at the story about this, like burgeoning thief and fashion designer. Like, I don’t need it to be about Dalmatians ultimately. Like, this is also how I felt about the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, which was like, these are fun. But you I don’t think like you barely needed to have this tied to the Sherlock Holmes IP.

S2: Right. And that is essentially just to get enough name recognition. Exactly. Sell tickets, sell the property, get it, get international buyers for the property, et cetera. You’re right. If this had been sort of an over-the-top workplace drama comedy about a bad boss, kind of a Devil Wears Prada, but set in a more cartoonish world, I think it would have been just as enjoyable and wouldn’t have brought up these weird moral questions that I really don’t want to ask when I’m just watching Emma Stone and Emma Thompson be fabulous together.

S3: Yeah, although I will say I recently saw that Glenn Close was like, yeah, I’d love to do another Khairullah movie and I’m like, hell yeah, I want to see that because they can’t walk that back at all. She’s already been into movies as this terrible villain. And it’s like as long as you can keep going in that direction, it’s great. Right?

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S2: Maybe that’ll get her Oscar. Finally, Glenn needs her Oscar.

S3: Wouldn’t that be amazing if Glenn Close finally won an Oscar and it was for like 101 Dalmatians, three or whatever?

S2: So it seems like we’re very much on the same page about this movie. Enjoyable watch while you’re watching it. But you don’t want to dig too closely the questions that it brings up. But I’m just wondering, who who would you send to see this movie among your friends? I mean, basically, Disney heads people with kids, people who love fashion. No one. Who would you recommend to go see it?

S3: I think most of the above categories besides. No. And like, as you know, I do think and I think Emma Stone has said in interviews as well that this is geared towards more of a teenage or adult audience rather than like very young kids. So it’s good to keep that in mind. Ultimately, I think this is pretty fun, if you like, especially as like theatres re-open and people get vaccinated, it’s safer to go. This is definitely something that is probably more fun scene in a theater setting just because it’s all about these very lavish visuals. Although that’s said, I know like a lot of other summer movies are coming out. So you’re going to be spoilt for choice at the multiplex. But I wouldn’t say don’t see this. Like, it’s pretty fun. I don’t really have any huge problems with it. Yeah, that’s what I think. What about you?

S2: Yeah, I would agree. I mean, I’m probably going to if not take her to the theatre, at least show it on, on Disney plus to my 15 year old daughter who will enjoy the clothes and probably as a huge, huge fan of 101 Dalmatians in all of its iterations, find it one of the lesser ones, but still a really entertaining one. But yeah, you’re right, if I were going to see something on the big screen this summer, this might not be my first choice. But my main my main thing is I just I really don’t want a sequel enough with the sequels already. Let it be a standalone movie and do what it does and move on. Yeah.

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S3: Make it make just another movie where Kirby Ha Baptist and Kayvan Novak can play love interest. But as the main characters, they’re both so cute and charismatic, like I want to see them in a movie, but not necessarily as Anita and Roger.

S2: And as you pointed out, also, Joel Frye really needs to get a romantic lead. He’s really, really endearing. And I feel like she really missed a chance at not not taking up with Jasper. Why would you not?

S3: Yeah, like especially after like being friends with them for like ten years. Like maybe the fact that they’re very familial is part of what’s putting her off. But I feel like especially as a teenager, like, how are you not going to have a crush on that guy when he’s so devoted? Yeah, well, this has been so much fun. It’s always a pleasure to spoil a movie with you, especially something this wild.

S2: Yeah, it’s totally fun. I hope to do another one with you very soon. And thanks for coming on to talk.

S1: Yeah, absolutely.

S2: And that does it for this week’s Slate Spoiler special podcast. Our producer is Morgan Flanary. Please subscribe to the Slate spoiler special podcast Beed. And if you like the show, please read it and review it in the Apple podcast store or wherever you get your podcasts. And please, if you have suggestions in the future for movies or TV shows, we should spoil or other feedback to share. Send it to spoilers at Slate Dotcom. We love to hear from you. For Karen Hunt, I’m Dana Stevens. Thanks so much for joining us and talk to you in two weeks.