Young Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) is loved unconditionally by her mother, Catherine (Emily Beecham). Estella tries to be calm and kind but struggles with what appears to be a borderline personality disorder and has trouble keeping her raging and mean alter ego, Cruella, under control. When school bullies repeatedly taunt and torment Estella, she loses control and is expelled from school.
Without other options, Catherine and Estella set off for London, where they dream of taking the fashion industry by storm. A quick stop on the way takes a tragic turn when three dogs push Catherine off a cliff. Devastated and heartbroken, Estella makes her way to London alone and soon after joins Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry), a pair of petty thieves making a living from stolen goods.
With her sewing skills and fashion sense, Estella (Emma Stone) quickly takes Horace and Jasper’s operations to the next level by creating numerous costumes for their various heists. But all the while, Estella dreams of working for the Baroness (Emma Thompson), owner and operator of the most famous fashion house in London.
When finally given a chance to work for the icon, Estella discovers that someone else is to blame for her mother’s death. She vows revenge, no matter the cost, and unleashes Cruella to bring vengeance and possibly justice.
Death of a parent; abandonment; revenge; grief; power; and the delusion that you’re above the law
Cruella has some violence. For example:
- Children throw Estella into a garbage bin.
- Estella tackles some boys to the ground, hitting and punching them.
- Snarling, vicious dogs chase Estella and look like they’ll tear her to shreds. These same dogs later push her mother off a cliff.
- A car smashes into a phone booth.
- Large ‘rats’ attack a man’s face.
- Horace falls off a balcony during a party and lands in a cake.
- The Baroness implies that she has killed many people.
- The Baroness tries to kill Cruella by tying her up and setting her apartment on fire.
- There is talk about how the Baroness ordered her infant daughter to be killed.
- Cruella smashes a garbage truck into a police station to free Horace and Jasper.
- The Baroness throws a chair, which hits a maid. She then yells at her, telling the woman, ‘You are in the way’.
- The Baroness shocks some of her staff with tasers.
- A man is punched in the face.
- A dog attacks a character.
- The Baroness pushes Estella off the same cliff where her mother died.
There are no sexual references in Cruella.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Cruella shows some use of substances. For example:
- Estella drinks from a decanter before she passes out in a window display.
- People drink alcohol at parties and events.
Nudity and sexual activity
Cruella has some nudity and sexual activity, including when a newborn baby is lifted up and shown completely naked.
There’s no product placement in Cruella.
Cruella has some name-calling, like ‘stupid’, ‘imbecile’, ‘cripes’ and ‘psycho’. Also, Cruella changes the name of an old family estate into ‘Hell Hall’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Cruella is a dark drama that goes back in time to explain how one of Disney’s most notorious villains came to be. If you once feared Cruella de Vil of 101 Dalmations, after watching this movie you might have some empathy and understanding for a character who’s largely shaped by the actions of others.
Because of its dark nature and focus on revenge, Cruella isn’t a family film. It’s best enjoyed by adults and older children.
These are the main messages from Cruella:
- If you put others before yourself, you won’t achieve anything.
- Sometimes family is all that you have.
Values in Cruella that you could reinforce with your children include persistence, dedication, determination and creativity.
Cruella could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like the consequences of:
- seeking revenge instead of forgiveness
- treating others poorly
- taking what you want for yourself without any regard for the rights or feelings of others
- taking justice into your own hands
- using violence to solve conflict.