Disney’s ‘Cruella’ gave its puppy-killing villain a catty history in the fashion biz and made it work

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It is cliché to say that playing the villain is vastly more interesting than the hero — which goes double for Disney stories in which, by and large, the princesses (especially in the older films) are usually just trapped in some manner, rendered helpless or sleep all day until they are rescued. But of all the Disney women of the dark side — the Ursulas, the Maleficents and, of course, the Evil Stepmothers — none has quite captured the imagination like the fantastically named Cruella de Vil.

So she’s been rewarded with a Joker-like origin story in Disney’s latest live-action reboot, “Cruella,” in theaters this weekend and on Disney+ Premier Access. It is, unfortunately, hobbled by Disney’s dogged need to be child-friendly — even though she is, of course, the only Disney villain with a rap sheet that includes “the attempted murder of a triple-digit number of puppies” — but the film’s cattiness means it accidentally stumbles into being more delightful than it has any right to be.

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