Cruella Review – Hail to the Fashionista Queen, Baby


Cruella De Vil has been a pop culture icon since her introduction in 1961’s 101 Dalmatians. Cruella preserved her status more when Glenn Close starred as Cruella in Walt Disney’s two live-action adaptations. Sadly, the Michael Eisner era of Disney’s live-action adaptations were hokey reworkings of the animated source material. The Bob Iger era of live-action films fared better and has a certain edge and style to them. Thus, it’s fitting that Walt Disney should tell an origin story for its most stylish and edgiest character: Cruella De Vil.

As a whole, Cruella is a charming old-school story told with as much style as a Vera Wang dress. The film takes its time developing its story, especially in its exposition-heavy first act. As a result, it will take some time before finally hitting its stride. One of the issues with Cruella is the fact that Dana Fox and Tony McNamara’s plot is, at times, a little too convoluted for its sake. However, even with the extra subplots and various red herrings included in this caper, Cruella is still pretty easy to follow. Unfortunately, this also means that the film is super long—coming in at two hours and fifteen minutes. The film is indeed entertaining throughout, but the film does feel surprisingly longer than its runtime. Then again, there’s a lot of stories and climaxes to go through.

Cruella follows Estella (Emma Stone), a woman with a dream to become a fashion designer. Unfortunately for her, she ends up broke and orphaned in London at a young age. Estella grows up with her best friends and partners-in-crime, Horace and Jasper. When a chance encounter has her working for London’s most famous fashion designer (Emma Thompson), Estella goes on a journey that propels her to become the infamous Cruella De Vil.

Guiding the audience through this with a calm hand is director Craig Gillespie. Gillespie uses his experience creating delightful character pieces like I, Tonya and Lars and the Real Girl to give Cruella the edge needed to elevate it above Disney’s other live-action adaptations. Cruella marks another challenging balancing act for Gillespie. With Tonya, he had to work with a variety of themes. With Cruella, he has to work with a slew of characters—each one important to the overall story. For the most part, Gillespie moves seamlessly between the different characters. At the same time, he never gives characters more time than they deserve.

Cruella is a charming old-school story told with as much style as a Vera Wang dress.

He also does a great job of keeping this origin story from imploding under its weight. As it was with I, Tonya, there were so many expectations in a biopic about Tonya Harding. Similarly, there’s plenty of anticipation to a prequel of 101 Dalmatians and an origin story to Cruella De Vil. Gillespie manages these expectations through subtle nods and Easter eggs to the original animated film. Otherwise, Cruella is an original take on the Disney villain. The result is a funny and stylish romp through the London fashion world.

Equally important is the enormous attention to detail in this film, from the production design to, of course, the costuming. This level of detail punctuates the vibrant punk rock aesthetic of 1970s London. Likewise, the film features an awesome soundtrack featuring several punk rock classics. Songs such as “Boys Keep Swinging” by David Bowie and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash are just some of the few songs you’ll find on the soundtrack.

At the same time, Gillespie compiled a fantastic ensemble cast for the film. Emma Stone gives an electrifying performance as the film’s title character. Emma Thompson delivers a subtle but strong performance. Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, John McCrea, and Mark Strong may have minor roles, but they all deliver in their parts.

Overall, Cruella is easily Walt Disney Studios’ best live-action adaptation to date. As can be seen, the cast and crew took great pride in creating a film that elevates it among its peers. Although the tone caters more to young adults, the film still has so much to offer to families. So wear your best, darling. You’re going to have a ball.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

Cruella is now playing in theaters and streaming on Disney+ Premier Access.

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