CRUELLA Review; "The Biggest Surprise Of 2021...A Bold, Striking, And Visually Stunning Delight"

Cruella is a Disney movie like no other, and in our spoiler-free verdict of the live-action 101 Dalmatians spinoff, we take a deep dive into what proves to be a true showcase of Emma Stone's talents...

Disney has found a great deal of success with its live-action adaptations, and while they’ve definitely been more good than bad, we’ve had a few disappointments along the way (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is one recent example that springs to mind). However, even the most die-hard Disney fans have questioned why this 101 Dalmatians villain - whose sole aim in life appears to be to kill puppies for their fur - could possibly need, or deserve, an origin story. Well, Craig Gillespie’s Cruella turns any preconceived notions on their head to deliver a movie that not only rivals the likes of Aladdin and The Jungle Book, but also feels like a bold departure for Disney that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen from them before. Joker meets The Devil Wears Prada is a description you’ll likely see a lot over the weeks to come, and while it’s appropriate, it doesn’t fully do this delightfully devilish and stylish movie justice.

Comparisons aside, Cruella very much stands on its own two feet (in heels, we’re betting), and feels entirely original. Rather than shoehorning in a bunch of forced moments - “Oh, so that’s why she hates Dalmations…” - to make “Estella” become the sinister villain we all know and hate, this take very much makes her a complex character in her own right. She’s definitely a little unhinged, and her descent into madness is every bit as tragic as when we saw Arthur Fleck become The Joker, but there’s nothing to say this Cruella will ever become the woman who desires the fur of those lovable Dalmations. However, it’s also entirely possible that she one day could. That helps make this a fascinating journey for a previously two-dimensional character, and Emma Stone delivers an unmissable performance that is every bit as Oscar-worthy as her work in La La Land

The actress is able to take Cruella to a lot of deliciously dark places, all while making her a sympathetic and fascinating lead. When the moment arrives and Estella does become “Cruella,” it feels wholly earned and believable, something that speaks volumes to what an undeniable talent Stone is on screen. There are some great visual cues for fans (like the way she drives a car), but Stone’s Cruella is cool, clever, smart, and 100% badass. Of course, the movie wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if she didn’t have a co-star she could bounce off, and that’s where Emma Thompson comes in. Riotously funny, and thoroughly hateful, The Baroness brings an awful lot to proceedings, and the scenes they share together are never not a highlight. 
 


The supporting cast is wholly deserving of a mention too, with Joel Fry (Jasper) and Paul Walter Hauser (Horace) making the most of this opportunity to cement themselves as two major talents. Dana Fox and Tony McNamara’s terrific screenplay deserves a lot of credit for making them more than just two dumb henchmen, and they deliver heaps of laughs in an already very funny movie. Unfortunately, Mark Strong is wasted in a mostly forgettable role that could have been filled by any British actor. What he does do is great (he’s not someone it’s easy to get a bad performance out of), but we’d have loved to see him get to chew the scenery here as much as everyone else. Tipper Seifert-Cleveland deserves a special mention as the young Cruella, and is a talent worth keeping an eye on because she shines in a limited role that perfectly sets the stage for what Stone does later in the movie. 

Visually, Cruella is an absolute masterpiece. You don’t need to be a fashion connoisseur to appreciate the jaw-dropping design choices made throughout the movie, and Jenny Beavan (Costume Designer), Nadia Stacey (Hair & Makeup), and their respective teams are hopefully already having their names etched into next year’s Academy Awards. These stunning design choices have a place in the story as well, and Gillespie brings all these elements together, along with a rocking, toe-tapping soundtrack, to deliver a movie that proves to be an absolute must-see on screens of any size. However, our advice would be to see Cruella on the biggest screen possible because it’s a true sight to behold. 

The biggest surprise of 2021, Cruella is a bold, striking, and visually stunning delight featuring a fierce, transformative performance from Emma Stone that sees her make Cruella de Vil entirely her own. A must-see.

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