“A live-action prequel feature film following a young Cruella de Vil.” – IMDB
As hesitant as I was and will continue to be about watching another one of Disney’s “reimagined” classics, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Cruella. Let me clarify…
I honestly think that we, as a general audience, are pretty much done with the reimagining of classics and, particularly, the reimagining of villains. I honestly don’t need to know what each villain went through or what brought them to the dark side, sometimes you just want someone to root against. Cruella didn’t necessarily change my mind about this, but my expectations after a few other Disney flops were low and Cruella proved to be a much more fun and interesting watch that I was expecting.
I don’t know if Disney necessarily has an eye for casting or if they generally just give into what the public is demanding, but in this case, the public was right. Emma Stone as Estella/Cruella was a nearly perfect casting choice. I say nearly perfect because her accent, as in The Favourite, often strays far from the shores of Great Britain. Aside from that, Stone inhabits the role and brings the wonderful mix of fun, funny, likeable, and edgy that allow you to root for her, the villain. And Emma Thompson as her arch nemesis, the Baronness, is also inspired, as she brings the same comedic sensibility and wit that allow her to go toe to toe with Stone. Even though the film is named after one of the greatest Disney villains of all time, Thompson becomes the villain that we find ourselves wanting on screen. The supporting cast is wonderful as well, with a few familiar faces and, of course, a few damn cute dogs.
The filmmakers also wisely decided to make this movie a prequel, set in the swinging London in the 1960s. This made for fun, colorful, and edgy (for Disney) fashion, characters, and a soundtrack that probably could have saved the film single-handedly for me.
There were a few qualms that I had with the movie and interestingly, although not entirely surprisingly, they occurred at the very beginning and the very end of the film. It seems that the filmmakers may have struggled with how to reintroduce such an iconic character to audiences, particularly given the expectations placed on Disney after a few “reimagined” flatliners. Disney is known for its tragic parent storylines and they brought that back into play in Cruella, although in the most ridiculous way possible. Honestly, I had to stop from laughing at how ridiculous the “tragedy” is in this story. Since this event is what sets Estella/Cruella on her path, it also comes into play in the end. So unfortunately a good movie is sandwiched in between an utterly insane piece of character development.
I’m also a bit confused at how this prequel fits in with the rest of the 101 Dalmatians storyline(s). Not to give anything away, but Cruella is hardly a bloodthirsty dognapper in this film (although yes, dogs are napped but with good intentions). In fact, she is a lover of dogs. So, maybe I missed something crucial, but if anyone can explain to me that element of the film, I’d be glad to hear it!
Ultimately, Cruella was a fun watch, but at the steep asking price of $30.00 USD to watch it on Disney+, my advice is to wait until it’s free. Because, come on, Disney+, charging your audience $30.00 USD for your films is so last year.
Rating: 7 out of 10 Claire Bears
If you like this movie, you should also watch: You know you have your choice of Disney prequels, sequels, and live-action remakes, but the ones that I think are actually worth watching are 101 Dalmatians (1996), Aladdin (2019), Cinderella (2015), Dumbo (2019), Jungle Book (1994, 2016)
With: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser
Directed By: Craig Gillespie