Among the stream of live-action Disney remakes and spin-offs, Cruella feels like a breath of fresh air. As a stand-alone experience, the combination of 1970s fashion, punk rock anthems and not-so-bad acts of revenge is extremely enjoyable-and Emma Stone is the perfect choice for this wild role.
However, the prequel does not fully connect to the source material. While the villain’s origin story directed by Craig Gillespie is certainly a fun ride, it still feels like a lot is missing between this film and 101 Dalmatians – in which Cruella De Vil acts as the main protagonist.
Cruella details the character’s life, literally from the moment she was born (formally named Estella), to adulthood. The early years of the future designer’s life were nowhere near as thrilling as what was to come later, and the cutting of these scenes could have stopped the film from feeling swollen and exhausted.
The turn point of the film is the entry of the Baroness – which is understandable considering that the part is played by the brilliant Emma Thompson. It shows the glamorous, glamorous side of high fashion and teases us with glimpses of who Estella just is, if she wasn’t driven by revenge.
There are heist influences in the film on Cruella, something I found unexpected but extremely satisfying. Jumping between different locations and seeing how the counter-hero captures complex stunts and emerges in sticky situations is pleasurable, and something not yet seen in other live remakes. Disney action.
The film feels at its strongest when it leans on the dramatic elements being revealed, casting them like catwalk moments. Diversity note that Cruella has a whopping 47 different outfits throughout, with costumes designed by multi-Oscar-winning designer Jenny Beavan, who has worked on a large range of films, from The Remains of the Day until Mad Max: Fury Road.
The thought and detail put into some of these outfits is evident. Some are only on screen for twenty seconds or less but remain unforgettable due to the hard and courageous finish. I never thought I’d say I wanted to wear a dress inspired by a truck full of garbage and newspapers, but here we are.
Costumes and style also played a big part in reviving the ’70s – another area where Cruella shines. London during the punk era feels like the perfect backdrop to give birth to this character and gives him the unique quirks and traits that make him feel like a man rather than a bad cartoon character.
Most rock gets this nuance. However, there is a turning point where Estella drops any pretense trying to pave the way for success and unleash her inner villain. While the justification is present, on paper somehow, the switch feels turbulent and can be more subtly achieved in the course of the film.
A controversial main message of the film is that your blood defines who you are. I may not agree with that in principle, but it fits the narrative of what would later become a despicable character. That said, I didn’t feel like Cruella by the end of this story was ready to go ahead and skin puppies for her own personal fur coat.
For one, he has a close relationship with dogs – puppies that no doubt steal the show for some people. The seeds are planted to show a hatred of Dalmatians, but by the end of the film it feels like we still have a few twists to go before getting to the pretty literal black and white villain of future Disney movies.
There is also a very strange scene of post-credits, which is directly related to the story of 101 Dalmatians. I didn’t hurt it, but it left me a bit confused and extremely upset when I realized how some of these characters were set up for what was to come in this universe.
If I knew Disney, all of these mixed messages were a product of the fact there were more feature ideas hidden in the House of Mouse vault. As a character, Cruella feels far from done, so I suspect space is left to play.
While it’s rated 12A / PG-13, I’m not sure how much fun the kids will get from this film. Falling sidekicks Jasper and Horace (played by Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser) provide some slapstick comic relief, and Wink’s one-eyed Chihuahua is a joy to watch. However, there are dark basics to this story, and the length only makes it complicated to stay focused throughout.
Disney backs up the line with its live action remakes, trying to appeal to nostalgic millennial audiences while also keeping everything safe enough for newer, younger viewers. However, this film still errs on the cleaner side of the spectrum.
Cruella went well with the themes of the film. It’s a story of a thief who becomes a fashionista who lets revenge slowly get mad at him. It’s also a love letter to fashion and the seventies and captures the fierce backdrop of London perfectly – De Vil is in the details.
While it didn’t set up Emma Stone to be the abominable Cruella played by Glenn Close, it was a wild rollercoaster and one of the strongest live action remakes at Disney we’ve seen-though it can do so by being twenty minutes shorter.
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