Starring: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry
Director: Craig Gillespie
Running Time: 134 mins
Cruella is an American film about the story of Cruella de Vil, from her beginnings as a young swindler-turned-London fashion designer, to one of the country’s most notorious personalities, brought to fame by her feud with an established fashionista with links to her past.
I absolutely adored Cruella. By far and away the best live-action film from Disney in decades, this is a brilliantly entertaining piece of original storytelling, complete with a fantastically deranged sense of humour, achingly gorgeous visuals and costumes, and one of the most entertaining ensemble casts you’ll see all year.
But first things first, if you’re looking for your typical live-action Disney extravaganza, then Cruella isn’t necessarily going to fit the bill. On the one hand, it’s a sumptuous production full of Disney’s epic scale, passion and above all budget, but on the other, the film is aimed at a very different audience to what you might expect.
On the surface, Cruella is a family film, and it happily never languishes in the drab, dark territory of recent villain origin stories like Maleficent. However, this is by no means a fluffy, easy-going watch, with some really rather harsh moments alongside intense characters and very little in the way of fairytale tropes.
That, however, is one of the reasons I loved Cruella so much. It’s not overbearingly dark, but the movie doesn’t hold back from going to places you wouldn’t normally expect from Disney, above all with its two main characters, played by Emma Stone and Emma Thompson.
A pair of warring fashion designers at the top of their game, this is the first time I’ve seen a Disney movie whose two central characters are total narcissists. Of course, there’s a rather more simple arc for Cruella de Vil as the anti-hero of the story, but this film really goes all out with some brilliantly flawed and often genuinely nasty characters.
It harks back to Disney’s original Golden Age from the 1930s to the 1960s, of which the original 101 Dalmatians was a part. Much like the original animation, Cruella isn’t afraid to give you some properly nasty villains and some genuinely unsettling moments, but that makes it such a vivid and without doubt unique film in the studio’s recent playbook.
However, while the film does a great job at playing up the darker elements of its story and appealing to an older audience, there’s no denying that Cruella is a heap of fun from start to finish. While it runs for almost two and a half hours, the film feels nothing like that, on account of rapid pacing in the opening half and delirious hijinks in the latter stages.
From Emma Stone’s brilliantly charismatic turn as Cruella herself to Emma Thompson’s fantastically villainous performance opposite her, this movie is filled with star energy from start to finish, the cast bolstered by equally brilliant turns from Paul Walter Hauser, Joel Fry, Mark Strong and more.
The performances are further complemented by a vibrant screenplay full of laughs and sharp dialogue, alongside one of the best movie soundtracks I’ve heard in many years, with a whole host of rocking classics that turn a Disney villain origin story into an absolute riot of a watch.
And the cherry on top of the cake is the visuals. While I still have my reservations about CGI dogs, Cruella is an utterly gorgeous movie, with splendid set design and, as you would expect, thrilling fashion, with costume designer Jenny Beavan pulling out all the stops in a deliriously mad display of high vs. alternative fashion.
I couldn’t care less about clothes and fashion labels most of the time, but such is the vibrancy of the fashion in this movie that it really adds to the rivalry at the centre of story, ramping up the intensity of Emma Stone and Emma Thompson’s bitter conflict towards an exhilarating finale.
On the whole, I loved pretty much everything about Cruella. A rollercoaster ride from start to finish that combines uniquely dark and intense tendencies for Disney with hugely fun blockbuster entertainment, gorgeous production, great humour and an amazing ensemble cast, the film flies by in an instant, taking you on an unforgettable ride of deranged brilliance throughout. So, that’s why I’m giving Cruella an 8.7.