The box office is back, darling.
Memorial Day weekend saw millions of people return to the movie theaters. The box office was anchored by two major films — Disney’s “Cruella,” and Paramount’s “A Quiet Place II.”
“A Quiet Place II” had a huge box office turnout, earning $57 million over the weekend, which is about in line with what movies would earn at the box office before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Cruella” earned $26.5 million over the weekend. But the film was also made available (for a price) on Disney+, exposing it to millions of viewers who didn’t want to visit a theater. It is still unclear how many people purchased the movie on the streaming service as of now.
I saw both films within two nights of each other. They’re very different films that will appeal to unique audiences. They also provide two unique experiences. One is made for the streaming experience and the other is made for the theater. One will slightly scare you, the other will terrify you.
So if you were to see just one of those films during the pandemic, which should you see?
‘Cruella’ — a pretty good film that no one really asked for
I was asked a couple of times about my opinion on “Cruella.” Here’s what I told people — it’s basically Disney’s version of “The Devil Wears Prada.”
The trailers drew comparisons to “Joker” with Joaquin Phoenix, showing a young person’s descent into madness as they become a victim of bullying. But the film is a lot different than that. It’s not really about Cruella’s transformation into the madwoman who wants to kill dogs. Instead, it’s about the rise of an orphaned child into a fashion icon.
It’s dark, at times. Sure, there are little jokes here and there that provide good laughs. But there are some more mature scenes (I won’t spoil them, but you’ll know them if you see them). There are also a number of instances that might scare young children (it is rated PG-13 for a reason). You’ll see Emma Stone become the dark fashionista Cruella without blinking an eye. (Just a note — it’s truly remarkable to see someone with a squeaky clean persona like Stone become an evil villain.)
The darkness aside, the film has a number of twists and turns, which really makes the film enjoyable. Because of those twists, the runtime of two hours and 14 minutes — that’s right, 134 minutes — doesn’t feel at all that long. It actually breezes by, so much so that you might want to watch it all over again.
When the trailers for “Cruella” were released, I considered this a film that we didn’t need. But now, I take that back. It’s a fun, twist-filled film that I’d be happy to stream again. It’s a film made for the streaming era — it’s a little longer and filled with breakpoints will allow you to get up and grab a snack — but it would also work in theaters because it keeps you engaged throughout.
‘A Quiet Place Part II’ — A great sequel that needed more
I didn’t blink during the opening scene of “A Quiet Place Part II.” It’s that good. The sad part, though, is that we don’t get anything else like that scene for the rest of the film. And that seems to be the message of the entire movie — you’ll get highlights, great moments and good scares, but not enough to make you feel satisfied.
“A Quiet Place Part II” is a sequel to “A Quiet Place,” picking up right after the events of the first film where Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) and her children are on the road, trying to survive deadly attacks by aliens. I know some people call this film a prequel, too, but it is barely a prequel. Along the way, Evelyn and her kids run into a family friend, Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who agrees to help them survive.
The jumps, scares and thrills of the original “Quiet Place” are back in the sequel. We learn more about the world, the invasion of the aliens and how society is coping with the attack more than 400 days later. This film has a clear mission and focus, whereas the first “Quiet Place” struggled to have a direct storyline to follow, meandering all over the place (though it did that stunningly well).
But this film is waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy too short. It’s one hour and 40 minutes long. I know that’s a welcome change from the four-hour comic book movies, but this film needed an extra 15 minutes. I don’t know if those 15 minutes should have been more of the prequel story about the aliens invading or something to really wrap up the ending. But it definitely needed more to make the project feel complete. And because of that, you leave the theater not only wanting a third film — there is reportedly one on the way — but with questions about what you just watched and whether or not the entire plan proposed in the film actually worked for the characters. In many ways, “A Quiet Place Part II” felt like an opening episode of a 10-episode Netflix series.
However, this film was made for movie theaters. It’s a movie that relies on the silence of the crowd, the large bang of the speakers when an alien jumps out. It’s a film you watch with your family and friends, turning to each other when they’re slurping a Coke Icee drink in the middle of a quiet scene. Maybe we’re so used to long, drawn-out series and movies on streaming platforms that it hurts the experience of a normal-length film of “A Quiet Place.”
In general, the film works — but I only wish it worked for a little longer.
So, which should you see?
I’m not going to tell you which of the two films to see. That’s totally your preference and should be your decision. But I will advise you not to watch the films within a few days of each other, especially in the theaters. Maybe it was just me, but I felt that “Cruella” hindered the “Quiet Place” experience. “Cruella” was longer with fully fleshed-out characters and storylines. It had a number of twists and swerves that culminated with a satisfying conclusion that both left you wanting more and feeling satisfied.
“A Quiet Place Part II” did not do that. Though the film itself is a must-watch — and it works well as a solo piece — it did leave me wanting a lot more (which is good for the rumored third film). I almost felt like I watched one episode of a television series, and the next one won’t come out for a few years. So try your best to see these apart from each other.