Outside of their Alice in Wonderland (2010/2016), Maleficent (2014/2019), and Dumbo (2019) films, I have thoroughly enjoyed Disney’s recent live action treatments of their classic catalogue. One of my all time favorite IPs in the Disney vault is One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), and I have unironically loved the many 101 television series and the divisive Glenn Close films 101 Dalmatians (1996) and 102 Dalmatians (2000). So, with Disney pairing a favorite property of mine with acting goddess, Emma Stone, it is safe to say that Cruella (2021) has been one of my most anticipated Walt Disney Pictures projects in a while, and it met and exceeded my expectations.
Cruella is an origin story of the demented seamstress that every dog owner is terrified of, Cruella de Vil (played by Emma Stone). In this take on the classic character, Cruella has always been the darkside of young Estella’s personality that her mother (played by Emily Beecham) tried desperately to keep hidden away. This was to keep Estella on the easiest track to become the fashion designer the girl always wanted to be. After tragedy leaves Estella alone on the streets of London, she meets and joins up with her iconic sidekicks Jasper (played by Joel Fry) and Horace (played by John Walter Hauser) in a life of thievery. Knowing Estella’s true passions, Jasper and Horace get her a job in a fashion store, and through a series of mishaps, this leads her into the employment of London’s most cutthroat fashionista, The Baroness (played by Emma Thompson). All is well until Estella discovers a secret that pushes her to fully embrace the Cruella, that has been desperately wanting out, in order to exact revenge.
This movie was really good, despite what a lot of the Twitter discourse may tell you. Emma Stone and Emma Thompson both act the hell out of their parts. Emma Stone’s portrayal of Estella/Cruella was phenomenal, and will probably go down as one of the more iconic performances in a Disney live action reboot. Thompson’s portrayal as The Baroness is equally as good, and she made for an incredible template/foil for this version of Cruella. Whenever these two clash, sparks fly—these two actresses bring so much heart and drama to this film, and they really elevate the film as a whole. A lot of film critics have brought up that Cruella is a mix of The Devil Wears Prada (2009) and Joker (2019), and I 100% agree with this evaluation and would probably add Ocean’s 11 (2001) to that mix as well. While that may seem like the tone would be all over the place, the dark/demented, yet cartoonishly fun mix actually makes for a very enjoyable viewing experience.
Cruella, despite me really liking the film, isn’t without its faults. I mentioned that the tone had a bit of cartoonish fun, and while that works when in conjunction with the dark, there are moments in this film that go too far with it, and it becomes a little slapstick. It makes sense that they’d have these moments in the film as it is based on a beloved children’s novel and one of Disney’s most beloved classics, but these moments really clash with the punk-rock nature of this iteration of these characters. Part of this over cartoonish issue, is also caused by some of the scenes involving dogs—Cruella utilizes both real dogs and CGI dogs, and the CGI on these dogs are VERY noticable. The CGI work is nowhere near as bad as last year’s Call of the Wild (2020) disaster, but it did take me out of the film nonetheless. Speaking of getting taken out of the film, Cruella is way too long. There are easily pieces of the very dragged out intro to the film that could be cut down and a few scenes that were kept in the film for the slapstick comedy aimed towards children that could’ve been cut as well.
Despite what you may have seen on social media by people who very obviously haven’t seen the film, Cruella is a fantastic little film about one of Disney’s most notorious villains. Unlike with the Maleficent films, this film does not try and get you to sympathize with Cruella and she is definitely portrayed as off-the-walls crazy and twisted. Being put against The Baroness, who is equal parts evil and deranged, the film does a great job of helping you side between the two evils. It can lean too far into its cartoon roots and is most definitely too long and dragged out, and this leads to the film being a significant step down from what it could’ve been. That said, I would recommend this film to anyone, and that is mostly due to the incredible performances from the Emmas. They are goddesses of the silver screen and their clash in this film is spectacular. If you were debating going in the theater or watching it, with a $30 premier access price tag, on Disney+, I would definitely recommend going to the theaters to see this fashionable, punk-rock origin film.
Cruella is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and violence.
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