While not hitting the high marks of the best live-action Disney movies, Cruella succeeds because it abandons the sketch we had of the deliciously reviled character and strikes out on its own.
In stripping away (or not building upon) the character beats and the hanging existential dread, they produced a lean, mean little thriller, one that satisfies in the moment but ultimately builds to nothing.
Mainstream, though, is here to pass judgement, and it hands down a broad, overreaching ruling that isn’t specific enough to chill.
It’s a pure survival story with an excellent cast and a well-measured sense of doom.
In the wake of these satisfying battles, the lightness with which the humans are handled isn’t a killjoy.
These scraps of something bolder make Raya feel much more safe than it really is. A couple of no holds barred princesses and a whole new world for Disney provided so many opportunities for expansion that it’s disappointing they only took partial advantage. Hopefully they continue pushing forward, because Raya’s only downside is Disney’s self-imposed limitations.
I Care A Lot plays a tough game. It’s not an unfamiliar one, not by a long shot, but that doesn’t make it easy to stomach. A tale of greed and capitalism that can’t even be called allegory since it speaks of its themes directly, it’s a story of terrible people doing terrible things, and you’re not supposed to feel good about any of it.
No amount of slick story beats and scene chewing from Washington, Malek, and Leto can save such a thoughtlessly outdated premise.
Happiest Season knows the moment it’s in and how much it can push the boundaries, and it doesn’t dare come anywhere close to the edge. The win is simply getting an adequate one out there that everyone, not just queer people, will feel the need to see, and then not be put off seeing more. And in that sense, it plants its flag firmly so others can follow.
This is as much a meditation on the lasting effect of these people as it is a tale of their accomplishments and failures, so no, you shouldn’t really be looking at any of this as reality.