Cruella (Comedy, Crime) (2021)
Director: Craig Gillespie
Writer: Dana Fox, Tony McNamara, Aline Brosh McKenna
Stars: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser
Before becoming the cruel villainess known as Cruella de Vil, ‘’Cruella’’ shows us the journey of a young woman named Estella and how she became such a despised figure. Orphaned at a young age, she becomes a petty criminal alongside her new friends, Horace and Jasper. That is until she goes to work for a fashion store which leads to a job as a fashion designer for the famous yet callous Baroness.
Slightly different from other live-action Disney films, ‘’Cruella’’ is a prequel to the ‘’101 Dalmations’’ franchise with no connection to the 1996 remake starring Glenn Close. Directing Disney’s newest addition to the live-action catalogue is Craig Gillespie, with the script adaptation done by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara.
Much in the same vein as ‘’Maleficent’’, the film attempts to turn a notorious villain into ‘’The Hero’’ of their own story. Thus we see Estella (Emma Stone), later to become Cruella walk a difficult path, going from petty crime to working in the fashion industry under her boss called The Baroness (Emma Thompson). With Cruella being the protagonist, the script needed to be adapted to have the viewer invest in her and find empathy. While it isn’t necessarily bad, it becomes more and more difficult to believe that this interpretation of the character turns into one of the most hated Disney villains of all time.
Her increasingly chaotic attitude starts reasonably nuanced, and her transformation from a subservient cog in the societal machine to her anarchistic alter-ego is awfully similar to DC Comics’ Harley Quinn, which isn’t all that strange as it wouldn’t be far-fetched for Disney to want to capitalise on such a well-loved and established figure in pop-culture. And honestly, the trick works, creating an engaging, exciting and exaggerated character alongside her cohorts. Despite this, a large part of the audience will realise Estella is a far cry from the eminent villainess despised by children worldwide.It’s most certainly a vastly different version than what we saw in previous iterations of the Disney property, and it might be best to watch it as an original film instead of a retconned established story.
Nevertheless, the storyline is quite entertaining, with animated characters and brilliant acting. However, what stands out most is the costume design by Jenny Beavan, on its own, as well as in the extravagant set pieces.
This film will serve as the first step in a rebooted ‘’101 Dalmations’’ franchise, but if you prefer a faithful depiction of the evil Cruella de Vil, the version we all despised as children, skip ‘’Cruella’’ or take solace in Emma Thompson’s portrayal of The Baroness. For final judgment, I’d love to see how they develop the film further in the already rumoured sequel, which might make our main character even more crazed and chaotic.
On its own, not compared to the older films, it is an intensely satisfying and easy to follow story.