Craig Gillespie directs Emma Stone, Emma Thompson and Paul Walter Hauser in this live action origins story of the villain from the Disney animated classic, One Hundred And One Dalmatians.
A big jerky afternoon devourer that delivers ritzy fun for all the family. If you were being generous you’d say this was Phantom Thread meets Kind Hearts and Coronets but it would probably be more accurate to include Todd Phillips’ Joker and The Devil Wears Prada as the overriding influences. This Cruella can be a little frustrating in how it can’t seem to bully its unruly but high quality ingredients into a great movie, especially considering the excessive length of it. The visuals are vibrant – Jenny Beavan’s Vivienne Westwood homages are revealed in a series of showstopping stunt reveals, fashion shows as daring heists. They explode the retinas. Expect applications to fashion design courses to go through the roof when the pre-teens who grow up on this come of age. The spectacular aside though, it feels like a film that constantly is trying to get started. 90 minutes in and it still felt like a pre-credits prologue. A problem inherent in the origin prequel perhaps? But then why is it so busy? Why does Emma Thompson’s memorable villain have four or five right hand men, on top of all those nameless henchmen. Why do the good guys have two comedy dogs? Adults are going to watch this for a full fat Emma Stone performance and worry she is getting lost in the mix. While she always looks iconic, she does seem to struggle with a script that can’t decide if she is good or evil, misunderstood or not quite there yet. The constant jukebox soundtrack does a lot of heavy lifting here to brush over any moral ambiguities but you know that Stone would be more than capable of making us care about an absolute rotter… even a dog killer… if she were given a little clarity. Whoever decided to write Cruella de Vil quite so conflicted and wishy washy deserves to be taken out and skinned. Whoever decided to make the memorable title credits a Bondian homage of excess and visual pizazz, on the other hand, deserve a lovely fur coat for their endeavours. Cruella Before Kennels doesn’t always work but I’d struggle to think of anyone who wouldn’t be fitfully entertained by it all.
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