In recent years, Disney’s release of live-action remakes of their classic animated movies has continued to be polarizing. While they rake in cash like nobody’s business, the reception is undeniably underwhelming nearly every single time. With Cruella, Disney’s newest take on One Hundred and One Dalmatians around the corner, I can’t help but feel that the reception will be just as cold as most of the other remakes.
Personally, I’ve only really liked one of the remakes Disney has given us: 2016’s The Jungle Book. Directed by Jon Favreau, it once again spins the tale of man-cub Mowgli finding his place in the jungle along with animal friends Baloo (Bill Murray) and Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). For me, it was this remake that did what all of these films should: embrace the old, and make enough changes to keep the story fresh. Favreau’s directing and changes help give Mowgli’s character more of a purpose than in the 1967 animated film, and all of the castings were near spot on. It wasn’t a perfect film, but it was entertaining and didn’t feel like a cash grab; it instead felt like there was a purpose to reusing this story.
The rest of the remakes don’t really do a thing for me, however. They are just there for the money and serve no other purpose. Take 2019’s Aladdin and The Lion King (the latter of which, ironically, is also directed by Favreau). Both make minimal, unremarkable changes to the original narrative, have diminishing returns in their renditions of classic songs, and struggle to adapt vibrant stories that kind of required that animated touch in a live-action format. The Lion King in particular was quite a proverbial slap in the face, as it was nearly the same story with not even an eighth of the emotion of the 1994 film and stretched to 2 hours. Aladdin fair only slightly better, mostly due to Will Smith carrying the whole film on his back.
Plus, Disney has already remade this story, with 1996’s 101 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close as Cruella de Vil. It was the first huge success with one of these remakes, but even now it’s just as weak as the modern output. Close is honestly pretty good as Cruella, but she can do little to save such a generic, weak script, predictable slapstick gags, and boring performances from her castmates. It was followed by 102 Dalmatians in 2000, which the less said about that, the better.
So, what does all of this have to do with Cruella? Well, to me, it just feels like another pointless endeavor. Emma Stone looks fine, and the visual style looks alright. But given how popular this story is, and all these remakes have failed to give any reason why they need to exist, I don’t see the point. I don’t think this will be “the remake” that will prove Disney’s on the right path, and I don’t think it’ll have the originality some are expecting. I think one attempt to redo this story is enough, and that Disney should move on from these projects and pursue different projects. But hey, maybe the movie can prove me wrong!