Although Cruella — a 101 Dalmatians origin story centered around the film's villain, Cruella de Vil — is a Disney film, it's not as kid-friendly a movie as most others. Rated PG-13, Cruella is filled with action, deceit, and many a dicey moment. While your tweens and teens will likely be into it, it's not really a movie for young kids. That said, it's not not for kids — depending on their ages, temperaments, and what you are comfortable letting them watch, your younger children might be huge Cruella fans.
Keep reading to learn what to look out for before watching Cruella with your kids on Disney+ (stream it free with your subscription as of Aug. 27!) to see if it'll be a family movie night pick or not.
What Parents Should Know About Disney's Cruella
- There is no shortage of violence, death, threats, and attempted killings. There's a lot of violence in Cruella — a character is killed before the opening title frame (though you don't see the aftermath). Cruella's life is threatened more than once, a fire is set on purpose with the intent of killing someone, and in general, there's just a lot of violence, fighting, and verbal abuse.
- There is nary a good role model to be found. Cruella paints our spots-loving villain as more of an antihero who you find yourself wanting to root for, but truthfully, there's no one in this movie you want your kids modeling after. The actual villain of the film, the Baroness, is rude, demeaning, and generally terrible, inspiring a lot of Cruella's bitterness. Jasper is the only character I'll give a bit of credit to in terms of having a conscience — both he and Horace are loyal friends to Cruella, but Jasper tries the hardest to reason with Cruella when she goes a bit off the rails.
- Cruella has no problem stealing and lying and isn't one to follow the rules. While Cruella's unwillingness to fall in line with the mainstream and her dedication to being herself is admirable, the entire opening of the film centers on Cruella's mom being utterly unable to keep her rebellious daughter out of trouble. Throughout the film, she — along with Horace and Jasper — steals, lies, and manipulates. Plus, the entire plot is centered on her conning a fashion designer, so she can steal from her. Oof.
- When pressed, Cruella is selfish and turns her back on her friends. There are a quite a few cringey moments in which Cruella treats Jasper and Horace like her employees rather than her friends (which is in line with the Cruella of 101 Dalmatians). She becomes very controlling and completely focused on revenge, and while she's mean during much of the film, her rudeness toward her best friends who always have her back is tough to witness.
- Cruella steals some Dalmatians, and it's believed she might have harmed them. There are obviously Dalmatians in the movie (TBH, pretty brutal Dalmatians who were trained to be aggressive), and while you can assure your kids that all of the dogs in the film will be completely fine in the end, there are a few dicey moments for the pups. There's also a rumor that Cruella killed them to make a fur coat (spoiler: she doesn't).
Despite all of this, there are definitely lessons to be taken from the film. Cruella loses herself for a bit, but her friendships are strong and meaningful, and she learns the value of chosen family. Cruella isn't the total worst at all times — she's charming and funny, and when it comes to pursuing her fashion dreams, brilliant and inspiring. Whether you watch with your younger kids or not, there's a lot to love about Cruella!
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