Another year, another Disney film where a classic villain is taken out of the vaults and given an origin story. However, while 2014’s ‘Maleficent’ aimed to make the Sleeping Beauty villain sympathetic, ‘Cruella’ instead embraces its madness and just tells the story of how Cruella came to be the puppy killer that she is.
‘Cruella’ stars Emma Stone as the titular character as she unexpectedly moves to London, meets thieves Horace and Jasper and moves up in the fashion world, rivalling fashion goddess The Baroness (Emma Thompson).
Just as Glenn Close elevated the role of the older Cruella De Vil in the live action ‘101 Dalmatians’, Emma Stone brings a charm to the young Cruella. Despite developing into a villain, she’s captivating and demands attention whenever she’s onscreen. And, while she is sympathetic at first as the shy and innocent Estella, she eventually morphs into the iconic character (a little suddenly) and fully embraces it. Her interactions with Jasper and Horace are also meaningful and is consistent with what will eventually occur. However, my favourite interactions were between Cruella and fashion seller Artie (John McCrea – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie). They had amazing chemistry and were a delight to watch together. While Jasper and Horace accepted Cruella, it felt like Artie truly understood her. Overall, Emma Stone is phenomenal as Cruella and was the perfect casting choice. Emma Thompson is also fantastic as the strict and arrogant fashion star The Baroness. She brings a stern and straight-faced attitude to the role that would make Meryl Streep blush.
And this is said because, in making ‘Cruella’, Disney have also made their version of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. And while the cast were amazing, the costume designer Jenny Beaven (Christopher Robin, Mad Max: Fury Road) deserves a standing ovation for her magnificent work on the costumes. Costumes rarely get mentioned in my reviews purely because they’re not a prominent aspect in the focal films. However, the outfits are just as much as a character here as the rest of the actors and they are outstanding and impressive. Specific outfits are one involving a 40 ft trail made of scrap fabric, a spotted punk outfit, and a red and black long dress in the realms of the Red Queen from ‘Alice in Wonderland’. They’re all unique and different from each other and, as someone who has no interest in fashion, I actually found myself wanting all of Cruella’s outfits! After this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jenny Beaven announces a fashion line.
The film has a lot to do here in terms of plot: tell viewers about her childhood, how she met Horace and Jasper then explain how she became Cruella De Vil. And with the 2 hour 15-minute runtime, the film is, strangely, too long. There were a lot of scenes, specifically in the first act, that could’ve been cut mainly because it expected its audience to not have basic prior knowledge of ‘101 Dalmatians’. Which, for a classic like that, is ridiculous to think.
The film’s soundtrack is also strange. ‘Cruella’ takes a page out of the book of 2016’s ‘Suicide Squad’ by placing various pop songs throughout. Some of the songs chosen do work but the film is overloaded with too many songs to the point where, while a scene was occurring, a song finished and the next one immediately started. They’re even placed in scenes that would’ve worked better with ambient sound or a score. With all of the film’s strengths, the soundtrack was more of an annoyance due to there being too much of it.
I originally thought ‘Cruella’ was going to be another unnecessary offering from Disney. However, this is a fabulous film. Emma Stone fully embraces the role of Cruella De Vil and captures her rebellious attitude perfectly. Emma Thompson is also fantastic as The Baroness. Each character is interesting and has a purpose for being in the film and even the impressive costumes are seen as a character, comfortably taking centre stage when the demand is needed. Interestingly, its biggest flaw is that Disney have based this around a well-known villain when the film should’ve centred on an original character, especially because it has to be consistent with the 1961 animated classic. There’s specifically a mid-credit scene that raises a couple of questions. However, it doesn’t overall hurt the film and it’s definitely enjoyable without having seen the source material. Disney now have their own ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and that is ‘Cruella’!
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