Disney has been creating live action films of their animated movies for awhile now, and they have been featuring characters who have been villains and showing where they came from. We had Maleficent and its sequel and now we see the origin of one of the foulest villains in the Disney vault, Cruella De Vil.
Emma Stone takes her turn as Cruella in this bombastic prequel to101 Dalmatians. We see Cruella, whose real name was Estella as a precocious child who was always in trouble in school. She had a loving and patient mother (Emily Beecham) who supported her daughter right up until the day the mother died. At a party held by fashionista The Baroness (Emma Thompson), the Baroness’s attack dogs (which happen to be Dalmatians) leapt at Estella’s mother and knocked her over the edge of a cliff.
Estella ran from the party and wound up on the street, being brought into a pair of street con men and pickpockets, Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser). She grew up helping them pull cons and steal from others.
Estella always wanted to be in the world of fashion, though and she continued to be sad. Jasper was able to arrange for Estella to get a low-level job at a fashion design house. Estella caught the eye of The Baroness and is brought to her team. Estella was intent on pulling herself up the chain and showing the skill that she had in fashion design.
Emma Stone and Emma Thompson are great in this movie and they have a natural adversarial relationship that was totally believable. Both women wind up dressed to the nines with stunning costume design and amazing hairstyles. The film looked amazing and should be an early lead for hair and makeup as well as costume design Oscars in 2022.
The CGI is really good too. All of the dogs in this movie are, apparently, CGI creatures and they are all excellent. Disney has done a much better job here than they did in Call of the Wild from last year. That CGI was terribly distracting whereas this CGI flows effectively with the action and look of the film.
They give these characters, especially the iconic ones, some good depth to them and we see more than just the one note evil characters that they seem to be in the animated films. I was rooting for Estella to be successful even though I knew that she would eventually become the woman who wanted to skin a bunch of dogs to make a coat.
I do think that at 2 hours and 15 minutes, Cruella was a little long and could have used some trimming here and there. There was a whole punk rock sequence that felt unneeded. There are several other moments like this that feel tossed in for unknown purposes. I think this could have been a tight 1:45 run time without too much difficulty.
I’m not sure if Emma Stone feels like Cruella De Vil by the end of the movie, much the same way that Angelina Jolie felt like a different character than Maleficent. That is not to say that Emma Stone wasn’t great, because she was. It just seems that Emma went from Estella to Cruella too easily.
There are some holes in the story, but I did enjoy watching this. Great soundtrack in the film too.