To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Cruella is a heist dramedy film based on the character Cruella de Vil, from Disney’s 1961 animated film One Hundred and One Dalmatians which is adapted from Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. Directed by Craig Gillespie, the film serves as a prequel/reboot for Disney’s live-action 101 Dalmatians franchise. Set in the 1970s in London, the film follows Estella, a low-level thief, and aspiring fashion designer. After getting a job working for the renowned Haute fashion legend, Baroness von Hellman, revelations from Estella’s past soon come to light that will lead her to become the notorious and vindictive haute couture fashion magnate known as Cruella de Vil. Emma Stone stars as the titular character, with Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Mark Strong in supporting roles.
The acting in this movie was truly astounding. I don’t know much about how British accents are supposed to sound, but the American actors in this film seemed to have done their homework. The story feels like a fun hybrid between Harley Quinn, The Devil Wears Prada, with a dash of Oceans 11. This film is carried by the performances of Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. Emma Stone is great in what is practically a dual role. She is very reserved and timid as Estella. A result of how she was raised by her mother to control her innate behavior issues. As Cruella, she is very much the malicious bombastic Disney villain we’re used to seeing albeit with a necessary depth the character has been previously missing. Emma Thompson as Baroness von Hellman is a character that is more in line with the Cruella presented in previous films. She’s short-tempered, vile, and only cares about herself. Watching the Baroness and Cruella square off in the rigors of the haute couture is fun to see.
As for supporting actors, Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser stand out as Cruella’s partners and friends Jasper and Horace. They are shown to be pretty good thieves from a young age and take Cruella in when she really needs a home. Jasper is the more caring one with what seems to be a slight crush on Estella and not very happy about her Cruella personality. He just wants her to be happy and to fulfill her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Horace is the more comedic friend and is mainly interested in the next con they are running. Certain choices Cruella makes go over his head, but he’s still willing to help.
The film does draw many comparisons to another Disney prequel/reboot, Maleficent, in that they change up the villain’s backstory to make them more sympathetic. Once again it works very well as one-dimensional villains really only work well in cartoons. When you have real people in front of you it’s necessary to have something to relate to if you want to care about the story being told. They also explain a little more about the aesthetic of Cruella’s look. Her black and white hair is actually the poliosis that she was born with. Also setting the film during Cruella’s younger years shows us how she became such a wealthy fashion magnate. The costume design is some of the most interesting and vibrant I’ve seen in a Disney project.
The film isn’t without a few negatives though. The length does feel a little padded. A few of the scenes could have been trimmed down without detriment to the story. The needle drops are great at first, playing off the film’s punk rock theme. Yet, as the film continues, they become so numerous that it can get a bit obnoxious. There are some components of Cruella’s backstory that don’t add up. It feels as if there were last-minute changes made regarding Cruella’s parentage to make for more of a twist. Lastly, a few of the dogs are noticeably CGI and it just comes off as strange. Especially when the dogs aren’t doing anything too arduous. Maybe COVID restrictions stopped them from getting all the animals necessary for filming, but a little more polish could’ve been added before release.
I give Cruella a Decent 8.2/10. It was very enjoyable and I’d be interested to see where the story goes from here. There are enough hints throughout the film setting up the story of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, but with this take on Cruella de Vil, I’m sure a few more changes will be made.