Friday, May 28, 2021

Cruella Review: A Stylishly Fashionable Origin Story

Release date: May 28, 2021
Running time: 92 minutes
Starring: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel FryPaul Walter HauserJohn McCreaEmily Beecham
Directed By: Craig Gillespie

A live-action prequel feature film following a young Cruella de Vil.

Cruella really feels like an origin story that does not need to happen.  The villain in 101 Dalmatians is just pure evil, and we did not need to know where she came from.  But thankfully, Disney did not listen to me and went ahead with this film.  The first bits of the movie do feel out of place; again like something that we don't need to see.  It tries to humanize this villain and forces in references to the source material.  But just get past that and this film will really start to shine.  First off, Emma Stone does a wonderful job as Cruella.  It is a tough role for her as she has to play a cocky, confident, and not beloved Disney character but she puts her own spin on this person.  She gives Cruella a rebellious streak that matches the white streaks in her hair.  Stone's Cruella is a strong lead who knows what she wants and plans 20 steps ahead to get there.  Cruella is joined by some friends / henchmen in Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser, who help her along in her schemes.  They provide a lot of the heart, humanity, and humor in this film and the balance between them makes the film that much more enjoyable.

Cruella has the goal of being a fashion icon, and as such, the film is much more stylish than any Disney movie I have seen.  Cruella is an edgy designer with a bold look and this translates onto the screen.  The film should appeal to young adults who are searching for who they are, and Cruella gives them a strong and slightly dark vision of what that can be.  I really appreciated the fashion scenes as well as the character's spirit of getting what she wanted.  Again, this is something I completely did not expect, to be rooting for Cruella, but Disney delivered.  And another thing I greatly appreciated from a Disney film is that the movie featured a prominent gay character.  Although the movie doesn't reveal that he is gay, it is pretty obvious from the context.  I know that this shouldn't be a big deal and should be more common, but I am still glad that gay characters are featuring in movies that are geared towards young adults.  Representation matters more than ever so kudos to Disney for recognizing this.

If there are criticisms of Cruella, it is that the movie feels overly long.  The film felt like it didn't need to fully explore her young life and some of her struggles, but Cruella is never boring.  It also doesn't really come together until later in the movie, but make sure to stick it out because some of the later stylish scenes are a joy to watch.  Additionally, as I've mentioned, it feels like this movie didn't need to exist.  Disney could have created its own rebellious fashion icon without using the branding of Cruella, and maybe made it a stronger movie.  But then again, Disney wants tried and true for its live action films so working with an old franchise makes sense.  And finally, this film does feel like some parts of the origin are hamstrung onto it to give it a hook to 101 Dalmatians; but that being said I did really enjoy it.

Cruella is a stylish, bold origin story and an unexpected surprise from Disney, with a marvelously wicked performance from Stone and a darker, more fashionable film from the House of Mouse.

Watch it.

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Cruella is in theaters on May 28, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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