Cruella (2021) movie review
Cruella is the is a live-action prequel based on the villain from the 1961 Disney film (as well as the 1956 novel by Dodie Smith) One Hundred and One Dalmatians. And much like 2014’s Maleficent, this was not a film anyone really asked for from Disney’s obligatory live-action remakes and prequels. Still, the film released this past weekend and, despite getting crushed by A Quiet Place Part II (2021) at the box office, has still pulled a fairly strong commercial reception so far.
What can I say, I guess word of mouth is really going to carry this one? Personally, I couldn’t have had lower expectations. We didn’t ask for this movie, and the marketing seemed to reaffirm that point. Honestly, Cruella looked like an odd blend of Oceans Eleven (2001), The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Joker (2019), and Birds of Prey (2020). Turns out, it IS an odd blend of Oceans Eleven (2001), The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Joker (2019), and Birds of Prey (2020). And it ROCKS.
First and foremost, above all else, the style carries this movie. I know I know, Emma Stone and Emma Thompson! I’ll get back to them. But no, I’d watch this again for the costume design, which is nothing short of Oscar worthy. The film does primarily revolve around the world of fashion, which is a unique and surprisingly fitting backdrop for a Disney villain Origin story. But wow is that concept woven into the core of this movie so beautifully! The film essentially uses fashion as a way for a misfit like Cruella to express herself, and when she can’t do that, she breaks things. Okay that’s not exactly this movie, but when you boil this film down to its character arc, you do get a very strong connection between the protagonist and the costume designs on display!
Now once you get past the immersive style, it’s hard to not pay attention to the two absolutely fabulous performances from Stone and Thompson, who I remind you have three Oscars between them. For starters, the film handles the protagonist/antagonist relationship much better than I had thought. Cruella is a bad person, and there is little argument otherwise. Is it cheating to give her a worse person to be the protagonist against? Yes. Does it work? Absolutely. Why? Because Emma Stone is charming as heck and manages to make a bad person considerably more sympathetic than she would be. Meanwhile Emma Thompson steals every single scene she is in by overplaying one of the most ruthless characters ever put in a Disney film. So, you know, Devil Wears Prada…
Speaking of characters, one of the things that really works against this rather unique story is the source material that this story seems to be working against. Meaning that, in true Prometheus (2012) style, this does not work as a Cruella de Vil prequel. Sure they do an okay lining some things up, but in now way does it become believable that the protagonist in this film could ever want to kill and skin 99 puppies. Okay maybe Pongo and Perdita. I do like Jasper and Horace! But again, I have trouble believing that they would help try to kill 99 puppies. Again, maybe Pongo and Perdita…
Now the rest of the film comes down to filmmaking for me, which is the mixed bag of the movie. Cruella has as many downright silly moments as it does surprising ones. I cringed when it was silly, and I gasped when it caught me off guard. And this is all held together by some of the silliest narration I’ve ever heard. I love Emma Stone’s accent, but if you took out the narration, it would literally make a more convincing film. However as annoying as that it, Nicholas Britell’s score along with a wonderful (albeit a little on the nose) selection of British Invasion music helps not only make up for the narration, but make an over two hour film move along with surprising momentum.
Now as a Cruella film, it’s probably worth a 6/10 if I’m being honest. And if it weren’t a Cruella film, I would hands down be giving this an 8/10. So the only right thing here would be to meet in the middle. Sure it’s got problems. It doesn’t line up with the original story, the narration is very unnecessary, and there are more than a handful of silly moments that you just have to get behind. But I think there is alot more to like than dislike here! I love the creativity that goes into the tone, score, and overall visual design of the film and costumes. The powerhouse leads also carry this movie, managing to sell everything about this that doesn’t seem like it’s going to work. So yeah, I really dug Cruella! 7/10.
So Cruella? Did you see it yet? What did you think? And what has been your favorite of the Disney origin story movies so far? I know that’s not many options… Well what’s your favorite live action Disney remake or prequel so far and why? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if there’s a movie you want us to talk about that we haven’t yet, let us know what we should review next!
-review by Ryan Prince