Cruella Review: A wild, fun, unexpected origin story that we didn’t know we needed.
The Devil Wears Prada meets Supervillain Origin Story….
There shouldn’t be an origin story for Cruella de Vil. The 101 Dalmatians arch-villain who made little kids both quiver and laugh when the movie was first released in 1996 was always an enjoyable spectacle to watch , being as intriguing as she was out of this world, but no one really expected to have a story where we find out more about her. No one needed a Cruella movie. And yet 25 year’s later we have one. And not only is it good, but it legitimately deserves the attention it’s main character would probably force you into giving her if you looked away.
Cruella stars Emma Stone in the titular role, alongside other established actors like Emma Thompson as the movie’s villain The Baroness and Mark Strong. I’m usually not one to say an experienced cast is what makes a movie, but in this case that’s probably very much the case, because alongside the lesser known Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser(whose character Horace is probably the movie’s secret weapon), these actors definitely carry the film home. And they have to because unless serious actor add gravity to the movie’s serious moments, the whole thing can come across as an honestly pretty crazy romp of a story, and that’s because it is. The movie aims for what’s essentially a mix of The Devil Wears Prada and a supervillain origin story with some classic Disney flare thrown in. A combination that in all honesty shouldn’t work, but it does. Firstly because of those aforementioned actor performances, but also because the movie seemingly knows when to take itself seriously and when not to.
Stone’s interpretation of Cruella is probably the biggest example of this, being played almost as somewhat a character with a split personality as opposed to someone who just became evil from out of nowhere. Originally named Estella, Cruella in this movie is depicted as more of an embracing of one’s darker nature, gradually growing in influence as Estella goes from traumatic challenge to traumatic challenge under The Baroness until she finally snaps , and in trying to upstage her would-be oppressor essentially becomes her ,almost quite literally as well. It’s a premise that can be viewed as sad on one part but also a little out of this world when you consider both Cruella and The Baroness’ personas, with both of them being the kind of people who act like the overly-excessive and entitled boss from hell on one part, but also a straight up comic book supervillain on another. Estella/Cruella herself is aware of this, pointing it out how it makes one a psychopath, and if anything if this level of self awareness that spreads from Stone’s character and throughout the movie that makes it so entertaining . It knows when to be completely absurd and when to stop and make you actually think about what’s going on, whether that be through the seconds of introspection Cruella has before doing something crazier, or when the movie literally tells you things are going too far through Joel Fry’s Jasper who seems to be the only level headed person in the whole movie.
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The subtler moments might not keep you hooked for too long though, and chances are that’s because they’re not meant to in the end. What is meant to keep you hooked is the spectacle. After all this is a movie about one of the most bombastic Disney villains to ever brave the screen, and it lives up to that task by essentially being a fashion focused heist film. The rivalry between Cruella and The Baroness creates amazing set pieces where Cruella essentially upstages the latter, an established fashion icon in London, at every event The Baroness cherishes, chipping away at her pride and image in a way that drives Thompson’s character to actually want to kill Cruella. As I said, it can be a little crazy, but considering the heists and artistic set pieces that happen because of this, you’ll quickly throw your logic out the window and just go along for the ride. And note, this is coming from a guy with no fashion sense whatsoever or a flare for fashion-focused movies, and yet I literally laughed or was shocked each time I saw one of Cruella’s schemes work. The fact that said heists featured Jasper and Horace , Cruella’s brothers(of sorts) and their “family” dogs helped quite a bit too, being chances for their personalities to shine (especially Horace) and even for the dogs to be entertaining characters in their own right (it’s a 101 Dalmatians prequel, you shouldn’t be too surprised by the focus on dogs).
The only downside to Cruella as a movie is that well, it’s a 101 Dalmatians prequel. Now bear in mind I personally have never truly been a fan of these Disney villain origin stories; in fact, I’ve never liked either of the Maleficent movies as I found them rather unnecessary. However, I can’t say the same about Cruella. As stated in the title this was the villain origin story, we didn’t know we needed but definitely do. The only problem is that being tied to 101 Dalmatians, you can’t help but dislike the fact that you already know how Cruella’s story ends, and after the movie would have done such a good job to sell her to you, you feel a little disheartened when you think about said ending. In fact when this movie ended I found myself hoping for a sequel, even though I realized that might be redundant considering we know where this story eventually goes. Either way the fact that I want one is probably a testament to how well this movie was put together more than anything else.
And thus, Cruella is definitely a movie to go watch this year. It’s already making rounds in cinemas and if you get the chance, you should definitely go watch it. Stone’s performance sells the movie’s craziest and most serious parts and she perfectly embodies its polarized identity, seemingly on purpose considering she’s playing someone with dual-toned hair. Add in a stellar supporting cast, some well thought-out heist set pieces and even a few good nods to dogs being man’s best friend, and you have a movie that’s a fun time for almost everyone willing to give it a chance.
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