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Saturday
January 22nd, 2022

cruella spotlight pageCruella (Emma Stone) prepares to cause some trouble for her nemeses in this scene from Disney’s newest, “Cruella,” currently available in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

One of my favorite Disney movies when I was younger was the classic “101 Dalmatians,” and I was always rather frightened by Cruella De Vil’s horrible plot to kill a bunch of puppies in order to make herself a coat (of all things). So when I heard last year about Disney’s plan to give Cruella’s backstory the live action treatment, I must admit I was rather skeptical and my main thought was “How could they POSSIBLY humanize an attempted puppy murderer?!” 

Nevertheless, I made the trek Friday evening to the movie theater and saw for myself exactly what Disney did with “Cruella,” which follows Estella Miller (Emma Stone), an aspiring fashion designer during the 1970s punk revolution, as she explores the path that will lead her to become the notorious Cruella de Vil.

The first thing I have to give praise to is the costume design because every single one used throughout the movie made my jaw drop. Two-time Oscar winner Jenny Beavan headed up the costume department with this movie, and Disney made the right choice in hiring her. The costumes range form bright and colorful (especially Cruella’s as her name starts spreading around London) to sharp and sophisticated (especially at the gala parties and shows hosted by Cruella’s main nemesis, Baroness Hellman, throughout the movie). I can only imagine how long it must have taken for each of the costumes to be fit and designed perfectly toward each character. And because some of the costumes are particularly outrageous, I’d also like to know how many people were actually in the costume design department for this movie, because there is no way only a few people took care of all that during production/filming. With all of that in mind, it would not surprise me at all for the movie to receive at least a nomination for costume design come the next awards season. The only minor quibble I have on that side is I wish a better black-and-white wig had been found for Emma Stone, because the one used in the movie actually looked rather cheap and unrealistic. 

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The cast of the movie was something else I enjoyed, beginning with Emma Stone as the young Estella/Cruella. Throughout the movie, we see her start out as the young and rather naïve Estella and see her descent and destabilization into the eventually notorious Cruella De Vil – the changes are subtle, but they’re definitely there throughout the movie and Stone does a great job portraying that evolution. Emma Thompson is also positively sadistic and diabolical as Cruella’s nemesis, Baroness Hellman, who’s responsible for Cruella’s life’s direction in more ways than one. She maintains that coldness and nasty streak throughout the whole movie and her overall performance was just fantastic. I also really liked how there was dimension given to Cruella’s henchmen, Jasper and Horace (Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser, respectively) and how they were also given a hint of backstory that intertwined with Estella’s – unlike with “Maleficent,” where the three fairies were basically The Three Stooges, these two were actually given something to do and helped move the story forward. 

The soundtrack for the movie is also pretty cool, featuring several songs that were popular during the punk movement, and each of them fit their respective scenes fairly well. The only qualm I had about the music is there was almost too much of it throughout and it felt a new song was starting like every other minute, which was very jarring. 

All that being said, there were a few other issues I had with the movie, starting with the overall story/screenplay. I feel like there could have been so much more exploration done into Cruella’s character and what turned her into an attempted puppy killer, and the movie, to me, only barely scratches the surface. With how evil and notorious Cruella’s character is known to be, I feel there could have been some more darkness and depth injected into the movie, and I feel there were some missed opportunities story-wise. 

I also felt the pacing could have been worked on, because there are so many times where the action looks like it’s about to ramp up, kind of ramps up, and then kind of plateaus or falls flat. And with a running time of 135 minutes, that can quickly become problematic.

Overall, I enjoyed “Cruella” and would give it a “B-minus” grade. The costumes are gorgeous, the cast is excellent (especially Stone and Thompson), and the soundtrack is pretty cool, albeit a bit much at times, along with the cinematography. However, I felt the story could have used some work, and the pacing was definitely off-kilter at multiple points throughout the movie, which made it a little hard to stay invested. If you’re a fan of Disney’s other work, you’ll likely enjoy “Cruella.”

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