As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people—or in this case, puppies. Cruella is the latest film in a recent barrage of villain origin stories that attempt to humanize antagonists by inventing past trauma. And as with other mononymous prequels, including Maleficent and Joker, Cruella leaves us wondering why. Part heist, part mystery, the movie is fun, stylish, and over the top (in mostly a good way), but it struggles to prove that it’s more than a muddled cash grab. Buried under couture looks and a pop song–riddled soundtrack is a film attempting to say something edgy about women’s genius being stifled and the futility of playing by the rules. Instead of achieving this goal, Cruella romanticizes girlbosses who treat those around them poorly in order to claw their way to the top. Just because a movie leaves audiences with unanswered questions doesn’t mean it needs a prequel. And just because a villain is a woman doesn’t mean she needs to be redeemed.
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