Disney’s recent renaissance of live-action remakes have been met with mixed results, both in quality and in popularity. Many of the remakes so far were unnecessary, lifeless remakes that fall flat attempting to recreate the magic of the originals. Still, some managed to break that curse, not by recreating, but by expanding the legacy of the original. Fortunately, Cruella falls beautifully into the latter category.
Cruella follows the titular character’s journey to becoming the showstopping villain from the classic 101 Dalmatians. Emma Stone’s Cruella starts her journey as the scrappy orphan Estella, as she fights her way to the top of the cutthroat London fashion scene in the 1970s, with only Emma Thompson’s Baroness standing in her way. Cruella is an original story with a strong, sturdy connection to the characters and events from the Disney classic.
Disney cannot seem to crack the formula for a well-rounded, successful live-action remake. The company breaks box office records with lazy, lifeless copies like The Lion King and Aladdin, but it seems the further Disney pulls away from the source material, the less interested general audiences become. Cruella tells a new story that compliments the original, but still seems to lose the interest of a mass audience. Still, this movie should still be given a chance because of how good it truly is.
Emma Stone gives a show stopping performance as Estella/Cruella, very much in the same vein as Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. She instantly becomes my preferred version of the character in any medium. Emma Thompson comes out of nowhere with a brilliantly terrifying performance in a role worthy of her talents. The visuals associated with both characters are particularly impressive, but also point out one of the film’s greatest weaknesses.
The visuals of this film are undeniably impressive. The production designers, including the consume designers, set decorators, cinematographers, and more, all bring their A-game to create an instantly iconic world to explore. The direction, however, hold this film back from its full potential. Craig Gillespie has all the components to recreate the brilliance of films like Joker, but to keep it studio generic, Cruella falls a bit towards the Maleficent side of villain origin stories.
Cruella is not even close to Malificent level of disappointing, but with a stronger director (or possibly stronger trust by Disney) it could have been the new Joker. Gillespie takes brilliantly acted and beautifully designed scenes and stitches it together without adding much to the material himself. The film, at points, feels very disjointed and generic, which a stronger director would have taken firm control of. Still, Gillespie did not ruin the film either. He delivered a final product that shows off the brilliant work of many talented individuals
If you are even mildly interested in Cruella, it is well worth the trip to the theaters or the $29.99 to unlock on Disney+. If you are not interested in what you have seen so far in the movie, then wait for it to stream for no extra charge on Disney+. But no matter what, make sure you eventually see this movie.
Filmnetic Grade: A-