When thinking of Cruella, one might question the need for yet another reimagining of some ancient Disney Intellectual Property. We have met Cruella De Vil in both the animated One Hundred and One Dalmatians and the 1996 live-action remake. This film should rank as totally unnecessary, yet it manages to be a surprisingly fun new story.
Cruella begins at the very beginning, with her birth. We then get a montage of young Cruella’s (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) scrapes at school, followed by her journey into London where she meets her partners in crime, Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry). After years as a petty thief, the adult Cruella (Emma Thompson) has stumbled into the chance to work for her idol, Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) at her London fashion house. When Cruella discovers Baroness wearing a necklace that belonged to her late mother, Cruella’s attempt to go straight turns instead into an elaborate plot for revenge.
I reject the idea of calling Cruella an origin story. You learn in the introductory scenes she was born bad, albeit one who was somewhat bullied into acting on those innate urges. Instead, the movie is more of a “here is what happened in the years before she started stealing puppies, but she’s always been that same kind of person you saw in those other films.”
Even if you are uninterested in the younger villain angle, the visuals in Cruella make the film well worth watching. The over the top sets and costuming provide some serious eye candy. When mixed with the occasional use of frenetic point of view camera angles, it give off more music video than movie vibes.
Everything is crafted with a “more is more” perspective. The includes the acting. Instead of reeling anyone in, director Craig Gillespie clearly told everyone to just go for broke. You can steal a scene when everyone has already chewed up the scenery. Even with the deliciously wicked performances from Thompson and Stone — yes, we get two villains for the price of one here — there is still enough room for the supporting actors to have some real fun with their characters. John McCrae’s turn as Artie, the vintage clothing shop proprietor who befriends Cruella, seems destined for fan-favorite status. His Bowie-esque performance showcases another example of Disney’s slowly evolving comfort with featuring LGBTQ characters.
The 134 minute runtime feels somewhat bloated, but never boring. The “more is more” aesthetic probably plays a role there, as well, with an unwillingness from the filmmakers to edit out any of the unnecessary fluff. Cruella leans a little too heavily on style over substance, but the film is so campy, twisted, and fun it seems pointless to complain.
You can catch Cruella in theaters and on Disney+ with Premiere Access beginning on May 28, 2021.
Runtime: 2h 14m
Rating: PG-13 (Thematic Elements|Some Violence)
Academy Award® winner Emma Stone (“La La Land”) stars in Disney’s “Cruella,” an all-new live-action feature film about the rebellious early days of one of cinemas most notorious – and notoriously fashionable – villains, the legendary Cruella de Vil. “Cruella,” which is set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, follows a young grifter named Estella, a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs. She befriends a pair of young thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they are able to build a life for themselves on the London streets. One day, Estella’s flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness von Hellman, a fashion legend who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute, played by two-time Oscar® winner Emma Thompson (“Howards End,” “Sense & Sensibility”). But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable and revenge-bent Cruella.