Brilliant. Bad. And a little bit mad.
Cruella is a 2021 crime-comedy film directed by Craig Gillespie, written by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Gunn Films, and Marc Platt Productions, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The film is based on Dodie Smith's 1956 children's novel, The Hundred and One Dalmatians as well as the 1961 Disney animated film, One Hundred and One Dalmatians. It stars Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. It was nominated for and won Best Costume Design and was just nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The film acts as a prequel to Disney's One Hundred and One Dalmatians. A sequel has been confirmed.
"I'm just getting started, darling." -Cruella de Vil
Orphaned at a young age, outcast Estella Miller aspires to be a fashion designer. When she gets a chance to work with the esteemed Baroness von Hellman, she leaps at the opportunity. However, as she gains more of a reputation and more confidence, Estella begins to morph into the drawling, puppy-obsessed villain, Cruella de Vil.
Characters / Emma Stone / Costumes and Visual Flare / Giving Cruella Humanity / Cinematography / Fitting into 101 Dalmatians / Runtime and Pace / Not Ending Where It Should / Fashion Stuff / CGI and Green Screens / Very Fixable Mistakes
I loved all of the main characters in this movie. There aren't a ton of them, but that is a good thing. As an audience member, I am able to sit there, watch, and enjoy the four main characters that they are meaning to show us. They are able to make Cruella de Vil just as memorable as she has been in previous appearances, but in a different way. She isn't the sassy, drawling, self-obsessed villain in this. But she is still made memorable. Her relationship with Horace and Jasper is a tight and personal bond that I really enjoyed. I'll talk about that in a bit.
And the Baroness was a very hateable villain. Every decision she makes makes you hate her more. Every word she speaks makes you despise her. And Emma Thompson gleefully plays this, making the Baroness all the more despicable. The thing I loved most about the Baroness, though, was her feeling like the Cruella de Vil that we know and have previously seen from 101 Dalmatians. I'm certain that that was intentional, and I thought it was a nice touch.
While these Disney live-action remakes may be stupid, pointless cash grabs, they do always get great people to play these larger-than-life characters. Whether it's Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, or Will Smith as The Genie, there is always someone enjoyable to watch. And Emma Stone is just incredible. She is so, so good. I haven't seen a lot of her movies, but I'm sure that this is one of her best performances.
What I loved about her performance wasn't just the crazy, arrogant Cruella de Vil energy that she had. It was the amount of heart she gave Cruella. Once again, I will talk about that later, but that's what makes her performance great. Not the usual stuff that we get from Cruella de Vil. That was still great, but what makes her stand out is the layered emotions that she puts on display.
I love that this film gave Cruella de Vil a sympathetic backstory and made her have some humanity. They tried to do something like this for Maleficent, but it didn't work, because that transformed one of Disney's most heinous, evil villains into a good guy and completely alters the story of Sleeping Beauty. Cruella does this a little bit, but not enough to really detract from the movie. It gives her heart and makes her likable, but she is still a villain. You are rooting for her and she has reasons to do what she's doing, but what she's doing is villainous. She also has a sisterly relationship with Horace and Jasper, which I felt made her more likable and relatable. Once again, this side of Cruella is what makes Emma Stone's performance great.
This movie will definitely at least get nominated for an Oscar for Costume Design. I think I heard in an interview or something that Emma Stone wears 48 different costumes in this movie. That is mind-boggling. The film does center somewhat around fashion design, so I'm not surprised that the costumes are dazzling. The visuals that they create are, simply put, stunning.
The film is also shot beautifully. Craig Gillespie, the director, made some great decisions when it comes to music choice and set design, but the camera work in this movie is pretty great. There are some very nice long takes that show off the eye candy that is the sets and the costumes. Gillespie immerses you in London in the 70s, and it feels real with what the cinematography is able to achieve.
Whenever I am watching a prequel to an already established film, I always enjoy seeing the pieces fit together. Whether it's Revenge of the Sith, Captain Marvel, or something like Wicked, it's always very fun to see the prequel set up something that we know and love. And Cruella has a ton of that. I won't say anything, but I just wanted to acknowledge this point.
RUNTIME The film is definitely too long. It does not move at a nice pace. There are some very exciting and fun scenes, but then it cuts to something infinitely less interesting and makes this movie feel like it drags on for a hundred years. They stretched everything out so that it was just as long as it possibly could be. I thought that the film was near over at one point, but there was still forty minutes left. This is all the result of a messy script that couldn't really decide what it wants to cut out and what it wants to keep in, so it just chopped up all the ingredients and threw them into the pot, hoping something tasty would come out. And something tasty did come out. But you can still taste the messiness of the ingredients.
ENDING The film doesn't end where it should, either. I expected Cruella to end where 101 Dalmatians could start. But there is definitely a gap between Cruella and 101 Dalmatians. The big problem with this is that Cruella de Vil is not fully evil by the end of the film. She has not become the character that we know from 101 Dalmatians. Once again, the script wrote itself into a corner. They crafted a very likable and relatable character with Estella, but didn't want to fully transform her into Cruella, who is not likable. So they went halfway. I don't know what they would've done, because I wouldn't have liked it if she turned into full-fledged Cruella. This was something that the screenwriters should've tightened up before the movie was created.
FASHION The first half of the movie really centers around fashion design. Which I did not enjoy. I think that somebody who is in to fashion design will enjoy this, but, as for me, I did not. There are a lot of fashion terms thrown around that the filmmakers expect you to know. I certainly did not know these terms, so there were times when I would be sitting around, completely befuddled, because I had no idea what any of the characters were saying.
CGI The strangest decision in this film was to include a surprising amount of CGI and green screens. How do I know that they did this, you ask? Because the CG and green screens are some of the worst that I have seen in any recent movie or TV show. For some odd reason, they decided to make the Dalmatians in this movie CGI. I don't know why. There are also scenes where people fall and it's computer-generated. It was all very weird, and it would pull me out of the movie whenever I saw a bad green screen or an obviously CGI effect.
MISTAKES I think Cruella suffers from easily fixable mistakes. This film could've been made better in the editing room. There are scenes that just don't need to be there. There are lines that are so stilted and awkward. There are some plot points that don't make a ton of sense. And all of this could've been fixed if they had trimmed this movie down in the editing room. Take out three or four of these unnecessary scenes, and the movie is suddenly 1 hour and 40 minutes long with the same amount of heart and fun, just with most of the dumb stuff removed.
Disney+ Premier Access: Is It Worth It?
I'd say yes. Cruella is a fun movie that gives the spotlight to Emma and Emma, as well as giving us a new, different, and humane Cruella de Vil. If you have a family, keep in mind that there are some relatively dark elements that may frighten littler kids, but they will still enjoy this movie. It is worth $30.
While it may run too long and be severely lacking in the script department, Cruella gives Emmas Stone and Thompson plenty of room to be great as well as giving us some visually stunning sequences in a movie that never loses sight of its heart.
I will give it a Savory rating. Age range is 8+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 8.5/10
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Rated PG-13 for minor violence, disturbing themes and images, thematic elements
Released on May 28, 2021
2 hours and 14 minutes
Emma Stone as Cruella de Vil
Emma Thompson as Baroness von Hellman
Joel Fry as Jasper Badun
Paul Walter Hauser as Horace Badun
Mark Strong as John
Emily Beecham as Catherine Miller
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Anita Darling
John McCrea as Artie
Kayvan Novak as Roger