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Moviegoer: Summer Cinema Done Right

Emma Stone in Disney’s Cruella.

Start the summer season with an outdoor showing of an updated Disney classic 

By Diana Beechener 

As the country opens back up, it’s time to consider what “getting back to normal” means for the moviegoers among us. Not everyone is feeling ready to watch movies in a theater quite yet. Whether it’s the thought of the crowds, or not being fully vaccinated, there are still some people who want to make the most of at-home streaming.  

So, to make the most of a summer streaming experience, The Moviegoer is going to take a page from Disney’s newest film about a rebel, Cruella, and give you a few suggestions to up your cinematic game at home and enjoy the premiere.  

The Set Up 

Summer is a great time to take your moviegoing outside. All you really need is a sheet or white wall and a cheap projector from Amazon and you’ve got yourself an al fresco theater. Gather a few lawn chairs or some picnic blankets, set out your favorite speakers, and don’t forget the bug spray. 

Feeling really adventurous? Watch a summer blockbuster like Jaws while lounging in a pool. Don’t have a pool? A kiddie pool is plenty large enough so that you can splash your fellow moviegoers during the scary parts.  

If you’re not the type that enjoys humidity and cicadas, consider moving the party inside, settling on some comfy chairs and making snacks.  

The Snacks 

Thematically, the best snack to have if you’re screening Cruella would have to be s’mores. Roast your marshmallows while Cruella roasts Emma Thompson’s evil Baroness character. You’ll end up with a gooey treat that matches Cruella’s aesthetic.  

If you want to be a little more punk rock about your snack food of choice, consider trying The Washington Post’s recipe for spicy cicada popcorn. It’s environmentally friendly and a sustainable treat that’s enjoyed in many cultures.  

Not a fan of insects or marshmallows? A bag of microwave popcorn is a classic for a reason. Put some chocolate chips in there for a sweet treat that creates Dalmatian spots!  

The Movie 

One of the better live action films produced by Disney (let’s try to forget about Dumbo), Cruella is a punk rock caper film that’s hampered by its source material. The film follows Estella (Emma Stone: The Croods: A New Age), who tries to break into the fashion industry in 1970s London. 

After losing her mother at a tender age, Estella finds herself alone in London with nothing but dreams. She hooks up with a few other orphan children to create a pint-sized crime syndicate. Though she’s happy, when she has a chance to make her fashion dreams come true, she leaps at the opportunity.  

Working for the cruel Baroness (Thompson), Estella learns that the real criminals of the world might not be the petty thieves, but the rich and powerful. To triumph over the Baroness, Estella will have to make a new name for herself and break a few rules.  

 Cruella has a killer soundtrack and a lot of style. Director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) fills the movie with lots of flash, loud music, and sepia-toned antics. The film is extremely reminiscent of early Guy Ritchie —think Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels with Mickey ears glued on it. It’s ironic that Gillespie made a Ritchie film, since Ritchie himself was such a poor fit for the live-action Aladdin.  

The film itself stumbles trying to make Cruella a prequel to 101 Dalmatians. It works best when it’s using a great deal of its plot and characterization from The Devil Wears Prada. Stone and Thompson are clearly having a ball camping it up in this fashion satire. And there are some genuinely cool looks with nods to Vivienne Westwood and the London street fashion at the time.  

But by bringing in characters like Roger and Anita (the protagonists of the original animated film), Cruella reminds us of the fact that eventually Stone’s girl boss character is going to attempt to skin puppies for a coat. Considering the film does everything it can to make Cruella a punky proto-feminist, including making Dalmatians attack dogs in a wildly misjudged scene, this adherence to the original film is a terrible idea. This is also a film for older kids, snarling Dalmatians and lots of loud, dark imagery might be too much for little ones.  

Still, when Cruella isn’t being bogged down with Disney film history, it’s a funny, fresh film. Stone gives a great snarling performance as a girl who embraces her bad side to get ahead. While Disney storytelling does mandate that she learn a lesson about family and being nice, it’s interesting to note that her character basically gets away with all her bad behavior with only a perfunctory apology.  

Though the film is certainly more style than substance, winning performances and a soundtrack that can’t be beat make this a worthy investment in summer fun. It may not teach kids to be nice, but Cruella will teach them how to make a splash and be fiercely original. Just don’t leave them alone with the dogs after seeing this movie.  

Cruella is available for early access screening on Disney+ for $29.99.  

Good Dramedy * PG-13 * 134 mins.