I really think I like these live-action Disney remakes more when they add onto the original stories and aren’t just shot-for-shot remakes like “The Lion King.”
“Cruella” is the origin story for the “101 Dalmatians” villain, with Emma Stone in the titular role as the criminal mastermind obsessed with fashion. Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Mark Strong also star, with Craig Gillespie directing.
You can just engrave the 2021 Oscars for Hair & Makeup and Costume Design to this film already, because from the opening frame to the closing shot they steal the show. Taking advantage of London’s 1970s fashion scene, Jenny Beavan (a two-time Academy Award winner herself) creates elaborate dresses and detailed jackets, and has each character leap off the screen.
Aiding them greatly is Emma Stone, who continues to somehow impress and surprise me despite already being an Oscar winner. Stone makes the character of Cruella her own and in a way gets to play dual roles, since the film presents the black-and-white haired Cruella as a mysterious alter-ego to Stone’s timid Estalla, a product of the streets growing up. Stone carries her normal charm and wit, and gives one of the better performances of these Disney remakes.
I also really liked Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser as Jasper and Horace, Cruella’s (somewhat reluctant) partners in crime. Fry has good comedic timing and Hauser has shown he can play a likable buffoon, and the pair play well off Stone’s energy. It is also always a treat to see Emma Thompson in anything, much less getting to have her chew scenery as a bad guy.
The film has a great energy about it, and for the most part you don’t feel its 134-minute runtime. Full of incredible music and snappy direction, the film moves along well, only really struggling in the third act where things get a little too repetitive. It could also be argued that this is not a kid’s film (it is rated PG-13), but there isn’t anything too crazy here that a 10+ audience couldn’t handle.
As we start to get back to normal and theaters return to the forefront, it is good to see we will have some quality pictures to check out. “Cruella” plays out like “Joker” and “The Devil Wears Prada” had a lovechild, but I really enjoyed myself during it and recommend supporting your local theater by seeing a film so vibrant on the big screen.
Critics Rating: 8/10