One of Disney’s most famous villains gets her shot at an “origins story” of sorts with Cruella. Director Craig Gillespie delivers an energetic, spunky film in an effort to reinvent the iconic character. The Dalmatian-obsessed fashionista’s backstory might not have been something we needed, but it sure is an unexpected, campy treat.
Although quite the troublemaker, Estella (Emma Stone) grows up with her loving mother just outside of London. While she dreams of being a fashion designer, that reality seems far, far away. That is until she winds up in the city and meets two thieving boys, named Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser).
As fate would have it, her talents are noticed by Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), a very acclaimed designer. With an offer to work for her idol, Estella realizes the job is not as pleasant as she believed; nor is the Baroness. She’ll soon conjure up a plan to get the last laugh, as Cruella de Vil.
Admittedly, I was hesitant going into Cruella. Even as the Disney-fanatic that I am, I’m still cautious when my beloved classics are given a fresh, modern remake or expansion to the story. When the first trailer dropped for this 101 Dalmatians prequel, it was clear it would have great style. The question was — Is there a story worth telling there?
The short answer is… yes.
Cruella does a nice job of giving us an interesting backstory for the infamous villain. There are a lot of parts that work so well together and delivers the audience something wildly entertaining, that goes beyond expectations.
Set in 1970s London, there’s a vibrant punk rock aesthetic to the film, with a stellar soundtrack full of classic songs (even if those songs have been used to death in film/tv). It’s a great revenge, crime heist ride, with Stone really rocking her anti-hero persona in a super campy way. This extends to Thompson’s character as well; a very Miranda Priestly/The Devil Wears Prada-inspired antagonist.
And speaking of fashion, this film absolutely nails it! Costume designer Jenny Beavan produced extravagant, regal looks with rock star twists. Which fits so well within the British punk movement that really took place during that time. They are immaculate, award-worthy creations, which are sure to inspire Cruella costumes for years to come.
At a little over two hours, I did find it to be a bit too long. There are some films worth going over that runtime, but I’m not sure this one was necessarily it. It has a lot going on, so I do wish it had been trimmed down slightly.
Cruella is a nice addition to Disney’s live-action lineup, with fantastic sets, a great cast, and an irresistible style. My doubts vanished quickly and I loved that it’s a little different from what we’re used to; I honestly didn’t find it to be geared towards young viewers whatsoever. And while I wouldn’t say the film is a redemption or sympathetic view of the villain, it does show it can be a little fun being bad.
Catch Cruella in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on Friday, May 28th