Starring: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, John McCrea, and Mark Strong
Director: Craig Gillespie
The true stars of Cruella are its cinematography and music. The sweeping shots and superb soundtrack allow the style, fashion, and excellent performances to flourish. The Emmas (Thompson and Stone), Paul Walter Hauser, and Joel Fry more than match director Craig Gillespie’s cool aesthetic, which has tonal influences ranging from Guy Ritchie comedy to Ocean's Eleven caper, all mixed with a The Devil Wears Prada rivalry. It's Disney’s best live-action adaptation to date, and if it were 15-20 minutes shorter, it would be an early favorite for best movie of 2021.
Cruella is wickedly fun. Its punk-inspired trappings yield an infectious energy the Disney live-action adaptations have sorely needed, thanks primarily to Emma Stone's committed performance as the titular villainess-to-be. Stone owns the part, chewing enough scenery that one could easily overlook (but shouldn't) how good Paul Walter Hauser is in it as well. Emma Thompson provides an apt foil for Cruella, with her stone-cold confidence as an actress never dropping even underneath her character's behaviors. Lastly, as they should be, the costumes are all sorts of fabulous. The film does run a bit long, but there's never a moment wasted.
Cruella is not without its issues. Among them, it’s slow to start, very predictable, and a tad underwritten. Also, I can’t track the line from where this movie ends to the truly monstrous Cruella in the animated movies, which annoys me for some reason. That said, the gritty campiness, excellent soundtrack, and even better costume design do a lot of heavy lifting to keep the story moving along at an unexpectedly entertaining clip. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Cruella despite constantly thinking “of all the villains out there, why the Joker-fication of Cruella de Vil?”