Movie review: 'Cruella' is both entertaining and baffling
The Disney film fails to explain a major character transition.
Brilliant, bad and a little bit mad, Disney’s Cruella is wonderfully amusing. The plot, albeit a little stretched, kept us thoroughly entertained. The delightful cast of Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Paul Walter Hauser, and Joel Fry make Disney’s live-action version of a classic a must-watch at the cinema.
After checking out the fashion-forward trailer boasting a ‘70s London vibe, we were under the impression that Cruella would turn out to be an interesting mix of Joker, Harley Quinn, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (mainly due to its setting). But the film is different on account of Disney humanising yet another villain whose origin story contradicts their prominent personality trait.
Set in 1970s punk-rock London, Cruella is Disney’s origin story of one of film’s most notorious villains, Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians. For the unversed -- Cruella, as portrayed in 101 Dalmatians (1996), is a disturbed woman who wants to capture the puppies of dalmatians and use their fur to make a coat.
Helmed by Craig Gillespie, the contemporary Cruella follows the story of Estella de Vil (Emma Stone), an aspiring fashion designer who suffered a troubled childhood. Estella arrives in London where she meets Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser). The three orphans become roomies and the story is forwarded 10 years. Now, Estella uses her costume designing skills to assist Jasper and Horace in thievery until she finds a job in the city’s fanciest department store.
She encounters The Baroness, Britain’s iconic fashion couturier, played devilishly by Emma Thompson. All hell breaks loose when there is a surprising revelation of past events that forces Estella to retreat and make way for her alter ego, Cruella. Next thing we know, the two like-minded designers are engaged in a never-seen-before war to become London’s fashion icon.
Due credit goes to both the wonderful Emmas for doing justice to their characters. Pairing it with the applaudable performance of Fry and Hauser, especially the latter, and not to mention the presence of adorable canine companions, the film is, I reiterate, a must-watch.
The only thorns in this otherwise brilliant cinematic offering are the elongated first act and a character transition that doesn’t make much sense. What’s baffling is how Stone’s character would possibly go on to chase puppies for their fur. Cruella contradicts the character boundaries set by Disney in 101 Dalmatians. One would think Disney is portraying a classic ‘lesser of two evils’ scenario but Cruella de Vil, from what we witnessed, is not evil. Devilish, yes, but not evil as she was in the 1996 film. That leaves us wondering as to what personality-changing experience Cruella encounters between the two films.
Cruella is a paltry villain, but a villain nonetheless. A humanized villain who leaves us with small-scale despair on account of her childhood, plenty of LOLs, and a desire to learn THAT major character transition on a need-to-know basis.
Cruella is out in UAE cinemas on May 27.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Paul Walter Hauser