HELLO cruel world!
1961, Walt Disney Studios, after the 1959s release sleeping Beauty, published her 17ththe Animated film entitled 101 Dalmatians. The 79-minute animated film is loosely based on the book of the same name by Dodie Smith and tells the story of a litter of Dalmatian puppies that are kidnapped by a villainous woman named Cruella de Vil who wants to turn their fur into coats. The litter dog parents (Pongo and Perdita) set out to save their children from Cruella and save 84 more puppies that Cruella and her minions (Jasper and Horace) are imprisoning. During his theatrical run 101 Dalmatians was seen as a crucial and definitive achievement for the company; the studio out of the “money crisis” because of the costly expensive sleeping Beauty and with the use of inexpensive animation techniques. Years later, Disney returned to hers 101 Dalmatians Ownership by expanding its material for franchise treatment, including a DTV (Direct-to-Video) animated sequel entitled 101 Dalmatians II: Patchs of London Adventure in 2001 called a two seasons (65 episodes) television series called 101 Dalmatians: The Series (1997-1998) and a live-action film adaptation entitled 101 Dalmatians 1996 and a continuation in 2000; both played the actress Glenn Close as Cruella. Now, as part of their current trend of turning their animated IPs into live-action treatments, Walt Disney Studios and director Craig Gillespie are unveiling a live-action prequel feature project for the 101 Dalmatians Franchise with the publication of Cruella. Does this latest addition to Disney’s live-action remakes bring brilliance to cinematic entertainment, or is it a flashy and strange feature that never gets off the ground?
Estella (Emma Stone) was born with eccentric black and white hair color and has been in trouble ever since. Estella (Emma Stone) is a mischievous girl who watches as her mother struggles to support the couple while she pursues a rising dream in fashion design. Through a strange series of events, Estella is unexpectedly orphaned and forces the child to lead a life on the streets of London. Fortunately, she finds friendship in thieving villains Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), who spend the next decade becoming an expert while nurturing her love of fashion with disguises to deceive people. One such person who charms Estella is “The Baroness” (Emma Thompson), the top designer in Europe, with her creative abilities and quickly hired to become a fashion mogul with the hope of achieving fame. Estella quickly learns, however, that the Baroness is an icy and vengeful woman who enjoys recognizing the work of others and inspiring plans to overthrow her boss’s illustrious empire with the creation of an alter ego, Cruella, and uses her criminal methods to defeat their boss in advertising and style. However, while that rift soon turns into a war of high fashion and ego while Estellas Cruella enjoys the fun, the young woman soon finds out that she is playing a very dangerous game.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
How many of you (my readers) know…. I was and am a huge Disney fan. Yes, some of their efforts have been a bit shaky and / or forgetful, but I thought the House of Mouse certainly made a name for itself, especially in the animation department. Growing up I always remember watching the Disney movie 101 Dalmatians as I found it both entertaining and humorous. Of course, I had some favorite characters in this movie (The Captain, The Colonel, and Sergeant Tibbs), but there’s no denying that the cartoon’s most memorable character would have to be the antagonist of the Cruella de Vil story. The attitude, cackling laughs, character design, and gruesome nature of her demeanor definitely added flavor and made her quite adorable as a Disney villain. Actress Betty Lou Gerson also masterfully nailed Cruella’s voice. I remember when 101 Dalmatians II: Patchs of London Adventure came out but didn’t get a chance to see it as it didn’t look that interesting to me (i.e. another poor DTV release from Disney). That being said, I got the chance to see the 1996 live-action adaptation 101 Dalmatian because I thought the actress Glenn Close in the role of Cruella was fantastic. I also liked the supporting cast in the film (Jeff Daniels, Joely Richardson, Hugh Laurie, etc.). In short, I think the 101 Dalmatian History (made by Disney) is something that has had quite a charming / lovable impact over the years, which is probably why Disney has revisited the property over and over again. As a side note, I remember watching cartoons that came out in the late 90s and I thought it was okay. It had its moments, but was just a decent Disney animated series in my opinion.
That of course brings me back to talking Cruella, a film from 2021 and Disney’s latest project to revise / reinterpret their animated feature films into live-action feature films. This, of course, brings up the fact that Disney has reinvented its animated classics, and while the trend was definitely successful, some of those endeavors (particularly recently) have been mediocre in their venture / execution. So of course I was a little skeptical when it was announced that a prequel project telling the 101 Dalmatians would focus on Cruella’s origins. I kind of remembered how Disney did it in 2014 Maleficent in restructuring as well as a somewhat “Kiddish” version from 2018 joker (i.e. shows the transformation of a villain). Just from the cast, which included Stone and Thompson, I was definitely interested to see Cruella when it was originally supposed to be released on December 23rdapprox, 2020, but has been postponed (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and postponed to May 2021. Additionally, due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, Disney announced that Cruella should be released on May 28ththe, 2021 both “in theaters” and on Disney + (premium access) at the same time. So I actually went to see the film in theaters with a few colleagues a week after it was released and my review for it was postponed a bit. Now I finally have the time to share my thoughts on this Disney movie. And what did I think of that? I loved it! Despite a few minor quibbles, I thought Disney’s Cruella is an incredibly entertaining film that is fun, engaging, and visually stunning. It’s definitely a little crazy at times, but it’s easily one of the better Disney live-action re-imaginations of recent times … and that’s a good thing!
Cruella Directed by Craig Gillespie, who has directed such films as Million dollar poor, The most beautiful hours, and I, Tonya. Given his background as a director, Gillespie is making Cruella his most ambitious venture, especially since it is both under the Disney banner and the latest trend is to remake the studio’s classics in live-action remakes. Gillespie has really succeeded in this regard and makes a pretty impressive impact in this film. Gillespie approaches the 101 Dalmatian material and frames the feature with a lot of nostalgia for the animated Disney classic from 1961, but also makes this live-action iteration appear different and not a copy of the original film. a trend that many of these Disney live action remakes follow and fail on. Instead, Cruella is (as mentioned above) as a prequel to the 101 Dalmatians Story and is an origin story for the character of Cruella de Vil and paints the central character more as a protagonist of the narrative, but in a different form. This, of course, is similar to what Disney tried with 2014 Maleficent by depicting a sinister sorceress sleeping Beauty in a different light with a kind of “different side, different story” motif. However, Cruella does a better job of handling the translation of good / bad characters and achieves better tonal balance throughout the feature. This, of course, comes from Gillespie’s leadership for the project and the right balance. The film is rated PG-13 (in US Territory) and for good reason as it is a couple of darker / more mature moments Gillespie is playing around with in Cruella, but it fills up right and right the right way whereby the director balances these moments with a few funny comedic details, character sensitivity / charm and stylish fashion presentations. So compared to Maleficent, Cruella comes on top of it and is much better shaped and handled.
The story can be a bit of a mess and / or shaky at times (more on that below), but that’s more in the fine-tuning of the feature’s script and not so much in bulk. In general, the story of Cruella is your classic growing up storytelling, seeing Estella transform / hug her identity from Cruella and how to deal with the baroness. While this form of storytelling has proven its worth, Gillespie and his team use the heightened sense of fashion, style, and wardrobe to keep the story fresh and entertaining throughout the film, which is a central part of the main plot of the film. Of course, the whole movie also has a cheeky idea that plays part of Cruella’s evolution and relationship with Jasper and Horace, as well as the Baroness’ icy demeanor and snooty jokes. In addition, there are also plenty of nods and winks at that 101 Dalmatians Stories scattered all over the movie so keep looking for them. All of this, under Gillespie’s directional banner, does Cruella very pleasant and entertaining from start to finish; so that the famous Disney villain feels old and new at the same time…. an accomplishment that Disney has tried for some time with its live-action remakes, but which comes to fruition just as well as it does in this film.
In his presentation, Cruella is a visually breathtaking and glamorous pleasure that can be seen from beginning to end. Whatever a viewer might think of this film, one cannot simply deny that the visual appeal of the film is eye-catching and dazzling, and how he is almost a character in his own right in the film. From the background aspect, the film shines exquisitely, picking up on the glitz and glamor architectural motifs of the 1970s London, England (albeit a bit cinematically exaggerated), especially in some of the lavish / luxurious interiors the Baroness resides in. So did the efforts of “behind the scenes” members like Fiona Crombie (production design), Alice Felton and Amanda Willgrave (set decoration) and Martin Foley (art direction) to bring the film’s background world to life in a fantastic style beautiful film sequences. This includes the cinematographic work of the film by Nicolas Karakatsanis, which definitely has some nifty camera angles and movements that capture some fascinating sequences, including a very nice sequence of the presentation of the interior of a department store as well as some moments of Cruella and Cru / or the Baroness- Characters.
Speak fascinating style, Cruellas The main attraction is definitely in the form of many elaborate and stylish costume designs. Yes, as always in a movie, costume attire and design work are pretty important to making a good movie; wanted a sense of credibility for the story. Since Cruella’s story is about fashion, the costume design for the film has to be outstanding and I have to say it’s an absolute miracle. Rather than hiring just one costume designer, Disney / Gillespie selected Jenny Beavan to design Cruella’s costume wardrobe. While Beavan isn’t a household name that many may not know, you definitely know her work from her costume designs in films as diverse as Alexander, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The king’s speech, Gosford Park, and Mad Max: Fury Road just to name a few. With over 43 years of experience making costumes for cinema stories, Beavan has shaped the industry and is sure to do it again Cruella it is more lively and visually stylish in the fashion scene / clothing. The loud and colorful and breathtaking costume outfits that both Cruella and the Baroness wear are just stunning to look at and have that artistic flair that makes it a breathtaking pleasure. With the outfits, I can really go on and on, but it’s just best to see the movie for yourself and see all the dazzling costumes that Beavan dreams of Cruella. Hell, even some of the simpler and toned down costumes for the various supporting characters are so detailed and believable; fits in well with the 1970s-era British London scene. All in all, Beavan’s work in Cruella is exquisite and top notch, with many of the costumes depicting their own character. I definitely (and besides) hope that Beavan will be nominated (and hopefully won) for the best costume designs at upcoming awards shows.
While the score, composed by Nicholas Britell, is really good as a solid musical film composition for the feature film (i.e. hitting all the right emotional and conversational moments right), the real musical star of Cruella is in his soundtrack for his song selection, which (like his main character) is a lot of fun to listen to. There are a variety of songs played in the movie, most of which are played to perfectly complement the various scenes the game is set in. From Nina Simone to The Doors to The Zombies, Nancy Sinatra and Deep Purple, Cruella offers a killer soundtrack that is great!
There wasn’t much that I didn’t like Cruella, so most of these criticisms I’ve written will be minor. Perhaps the biggest concern I have with the movie is the run time of the feature. At around 134 minutes (two hours and fourteen minutes) Cruella is considered a long film and it kind of feels like that. I thought the film would end sometime after a big reveal was revealed and a sequel project was set up, but the film just expanded into a bigger finale that lasted another fifteen minutes. I understand where Gillespie and his team were going with it (as well as glitzy and glamorous sequences), but I felt that Cruella the film could have been shortened to a leaner running time of two hours, for example. It’s by no means a disaster, but the film feels quite long.
I also felt that the story is a bit weird at times and seems to draw from a variety of source material. Again, the main attraction comes from the 101 Dalmatians Story, but (much like the movie’s trailer showcases) shows Cruella a bit like 2019 joker that was Disney-ified by him for his viewers. Of course the comparison is there and shows similarities; Turning Estella’s offspring into a sinister character in their Cruella personality is the main focus…. similar to joker. Even if you reject this notion, the film seems to be inspired by both 2006s The devil Wears Prada and 2018 The favourite; a sense of fashion, a cold-hearted boss, and a rivalry for attention. This becomes a little clearer, especially since the script / story of the film by Aline Brosh McKenna (who wrote) The devil Wears Prada) and Tony McNamara (who wrote The favourite) as well as other screenwriters such as Dana Fox, Kelly Marcel and Steve Zissis. Because of this, the Cruella story has the notion of “too many chefs in the kitchen,” which is why the narrative can be quirky and strange to some extent, borrowing ideas from other properties. So, Cruella seems like a little hodgepodge of ideas, but it’s something that ultimately works in favor of the feature. That being said, it could definitely have been ironed out and written better than what was presented.
Looking beyond these criticisms, Cruella has an impressive cast with a strong cast of actors and actresses to play the various characters in the film (both major and minor). I have to say that none of them are performing badly and most are giving their moment or two in the spotlight. However, the film focuses on its central protagonist and antagonist, both masterfully played by talented actresses Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. Stone, who is known for her roles in The help, La La Land, and Just a, has certainly made a name for itself in recent years; She morphed from the various roles she played in teen movies to a young and up-and-coming star in Hollywood, especially afterwards The help. Cruella is the next step in her career and the actress is incredible for the role; finding Stone having a “big time” by playing both a visually stunning character (i.e. larger than life) and one of two Estella / Cruella personalities. Stone definitely seems to embrace the idea of a character like Cruella and performs many of the iconic looks and antics of the villainous character we all love (e.g. smile with their laughs, etc.). It’s all there and Stone enjoys such sequences and does it in style. That’s not to say that it’s equally impressive in her role as Estella, struggling to find her place in the world, adding that for youthful fun and energy when she shows up. However, the film is about the transformation of Estella into Cruella, so there are moments scattered throughout the film where the ostentatious grandiosity / audacity comes into its own to present some kind of inner diva. All in all, Stone is great as both Estella and Cruella and definitely deserves a ton of credit for having the main character in the film is an unforgettable achievement. As a side note, the young actress Tipper Seifert-Cleveland (krypton and Call the midwife) is great as the younger iteration of Estella.
So is Thompson, known for her roles in Rescue Mr. Banks, Late night, and Sense and sensitivity, is notable as a baroness, a cold-hearted and narcissistic woman of power and fashion. Unlike the character of Cruella, the Baroness character is a fully fledged villain (as she is the antagonist of the story) and a fairly vicious individual of glamor and malice. She’s a more subtle villain …. no dramatic laughs or screams and Thompson is great at doing that; like a kind of villain of the “ice queen” chew through her scenes with effortless ease and happy fun. Also, flawed as the script is, Thompson offers a plethora of witty sayings and remarks that masterfully handle the timing and delivery of the actresses’ dialogue. Whether she’s cruel or just snooty, Thompson’s lines are definitely the highlight of the feature. The only minor complaint I have about the Baroness character is that the character can be easily compared to Meryl Streep’s performance of Miranda Priestly in The devil Wears Prada, but I think that has to do with the territory, especially since both narratives focus on a freezing boss in the high-stakes world of fashion. However, that’s only a minor flaw. Regardless, Thompson is terribly fantastic as the Baroness is impeccable in her timing, performance, and full embrace of the fully trained villains in Cruella. She is definitely a treat to see from start to finish.
Of the major supporting actors in the film are the characters of Jasper and Horace, who are supported by actors Joel Fry (game of Thrones and 10,000 BC Chr.) and Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jeweler and I, Tonya), provide entertaining and entertaining sidekicks for Estella / Cruella throughout the film. Of the two, Frys Jasper seems to have the more ingrained complexity in this sinfully fresh reinterpretation of Cruella’s story. How? Well, contrary to the everyday portrayal of Jasper in the 101 Dalmatian iterations, the character is much more than a lackey for Cruella; Finding Fry’s acting skills as charming and adding an extra layer of warmth as well as pointing out that Jasper and Cruella are more than just “partners in crime”. However, this notion is quite subtle in Cruellas Story and never goes down the path of distraction or unnecessary subplot. Thus, the character of Jasper is indeed a kind of “breath of fresh air” sideline, and gives more moral balance to watching Estella transform into her wicked iteration of Cruella. For Hauser, the actor in Horace is more of the comic (as you’d expect from Disney’s animated counterpart) and really does a great job; He brings a lot of humorous bits and pieces through the film and adds a bit of lightheartedness, especially when paired with his canine co-star, Wink, a tiny dog with an eye patch. Additionally, much like the younger iteration of Cruella, young actors Ziggy Gardner and Joseph MacDonald do a fine job in the roles of the younger iterations of Jasper and Horace, even if their screen time is somewhat limited.
The rest of the cast, including actor Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service and Zero Dark Thirty) as Baroness Main Servant John, actor John McCrea (Girl / hajji and Everyone’s talking about Jamie) as a vintage fashion store owner / designer Artie (or kind of like in “Work by” … haha, I love this line), actress Emily Beecham (Outside the wire and To the badlands) as Estella’s mother Catherine Miller, actor Andrew Leung (lighting and Containment) as assistant to Baroness Jeffery, actress Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Barry and The good place) as gossip columnist Anita and actor Kayvan Novak (What we do in the shadows and Danger mouse) like Roger, consist of supportive players in Cruella. All of these acting talents make solid performances in their respective roles, but I have to say that Strong and McCrea have their biggest supporting roles in the film and make the lasting impression on this line-up.
Born brilliant, born evil and a little bit crazy … as Estella’s journey of truth, self-discovery and vengeance makes her what she was meant to be in the movie Cruella. The latest film from director Craig Gillespie takes the main villain of the 101 Dalmatians story and re-introduces the devilishly evil Cruella de Vil in the original story of the prequel; paint a different light on the bad guy and play around with who she is and how she came about (i.e. throw a different shade on the bad guy). While the movie’s running time is a bit long and some borrowed ideas in the story are a bit skewed, the movie itself is spectacular and incredibly fun, largely thanks to Gillespie’s direction, a solid premise, a sense of quality for fashion and style, good visuals in its presentation, a killer soundtrack and a great cast with notable / memorable appearances from Stone and Thompson. I personally loved this movie. Yes, there were a few smaller parts that were weird and had the thought of “being there, doing that”, but the whole movie was great and I enjoyed it very much. Stone and Thompson were amazing in the movie and the costumes / soundtrack were spot on. I actually decided to buy premium access to the movie on Disney + so I’ve already seen it Cruella many times since I first saw it. It’s just that good. As you can imagine, my recommendation for the film is an impressive “Highly Recommend” as it is sure to delight Disney fans and even most casual moviegoers. Due to the positive reviews and the success of the film, there is talk of a sequel in the near future. I’m curious to see where the “next chapter” of Cruella will go and how it will connect with this film and its 101-Dalmatian counterpart. Only time can tell. In the end, some of Disney’s recent work is a bit rocky and questionable in reinterpreting their animated classics into live-action narrative, Cruella stand tall and proud as definitely one of the better (if not the best) contributors to this endeavor; to produce an incredibly fun and lavish breathtaking feature that honors its original source material but can also stand for its own visual and memorable assets. Just like Cruella says in the movie…. “Anyway, have to run. Much to avenge, avenge and destroy. But I love you. Always!”
4.5 out of 5 (highly recommended)
Published on: May 28, 2021
Reviewed on: June 13, 2021
Cruella is 134 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements