Cruella is a De Vil of a Time

The Stream: It’s too long for the predictable story it’s telling.

The Big Screen: Gowns, beautiful gowns.

The Final Bill: The origin story you didn’t ask for is pretty enjoyable.

– Trip Fontaine
Director: Craig Gillespie
Writers: Dana Fox (screenplay by), Tony McNamara (screenplay by) | 4 more credits 
Stars: Emma StoneEmma ThompsonJoel Fry | See full cast & crew
Genre: ComedyCrime
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes
Production Companies:  Gunn Films, Marc Platt Productions, TSG EntertainmentSee more 
Release: May 28, 2021

Happy Memorial Day, Streamers! It’s a big weekend. Theaters are opening across America, and it feels like the official beginning of the summer movie season. On Friday from Disney, Cruella opened in theaters and is available to stream on Disney+ with Premier Access. Cruella is the origin story no one asked for, but should you brave the theaters for this Disney villain prequel or shell out $29.99 plus your Disney+ subscription to enjoy the blockbuster? I went to the theaters, and here’s how that went.

Unlike the recent glut of Disney remakes like Aladdin, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast, Cruella is a prequel of sorts to the 101 Dalmatians, where we find out how Cruella de Vil became so cruel-la. There is an original backstory that is explored about Cruella, who was once an orphaned, iconoclastic young girl named Estella. She’s been bullied since she was very young for being different and she developed a thick skin and a bold sense-of-self. After an unspeakable tragedy, Estella is taken in by two street urchins, who become her family. The three children grow up getting by on grifts and thievery, but Estella aspires to more. Able to harness her creative gift for fashion, Estella’s encounters with the intimidating Baroness lead to revelations about her past and a catapult to her future and how we become to know Estella as Cruella de Vil.

Cruella has a lot going for it. Casting both Emma Stone as Estella/Cruella and Emma Thompson as The Baroness was the best thing that happened for this movie. Both actresses are game for the campy, Disney-fied energy of these dastardly characters. Stone infuses enough vulnerability into Estella to keep the audience with her as she transitions to Cruella. Thompson’s wit and acid-tipped delivery of every line gives the film the punch it needs. Without these central performances, Cruella would suffer from being too prone to borrowing from other films like The Devil Wears Prada and Maleficient. The costumes and production design are top notch. You wouldn’t expect less from a big budget Disney remake, and it seems like the money is well spent. Really, you could get lost in each scene just based on the costumes. Obviously, since this movie is in part about fashion design, it was important for the clothes throughout to be eye-catching and they do not disappoint. Lastly, the soundtrack is pretty great. It can be overwhelming at times and maybe a tad overused, but it seems like music is an important part in this movie and it’s used to good effect. If you like that sweet spot of 1960’s/1970’s British rock, then you’ll have a good time listening to Cruella.

My biggest critique of Cruella is that at 2 hours and 9 minutes the movie is way too long. The actual plot is fairly obvious. Estella has to be humanized and the audience has to have sympathy for her in order to understand why she becomes the renown cartoon villain. That origin story is well-worn. Didn’t we just do that with the Joker in Joker? Nevertheless, the story that’s told doesn’t go in an interesting direction and therefore it relies on the look and performances to bring energy and entertainment. Since both the performances are good and the look is great, then the runtime is unnecessary to achieve the goals of the movie. Cut 20 minutes or so and Cruella would still be enjoyable and the audience would still understand why Cruella becomes the de Vil.

S2S: Official Rating Scale

Ultimately, Cruella is entertaining. It is worth seeing for the fun performances by Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. The costumes throughout the film are dazzling and the music is rocking. The elements of the movie come together despite the rather typical origin story. I’d suggest a matinee if you are going to the theater, that would be more cost effective than the $29.99 Premier Access price on Disney+.

On the Theater Scale