Directed by Craig Gillespie and starring Emma Stone (La La Land), Cruella tells the origin story of Cruella De Vil, one of the most iconic villains in cinema. Boasting terrific lead performances and incredible costume design, Cruella is undeniably one of the better live action stories Disney has given us. However, the pacing issues and shoddy first half stop this from reaching true greatness.
Written by Becca Johnson
Cruella gets off to a rough start. The young actors playing Cruella, Horace and Jasper unfortunately leave much to be desired, and it takes a very long time for the storyline to get going and become engaging. The movie clocks in at over two hours and we don't meet the adult versions of our much-loved characters until quite a way through, so cutting down some of the earlier scenes may have made things feel more coherent and smooth.
As soon as Emma Stone comes to play, the movie soars. Stone relishes the role of Cruella De Vil, playing both sides of the character perfectly. She creates a likeable character that the audience can sympathise with and get behind, yet comes across as menacing and unstoppable, portraying the evil side with ease. Emma Thompson also gives a mesmerising performance as famous fashion designer The Baroness, who will stop at nothing to become the best in the business, even if it means doing the unthinkable. This is Thompson's second Disney live action performance, having starred in 2017's Beauty and the Beast as fan favourite Mrs. Potts, yet The Baroness is one of her best roles for some time. Paul Walter Hauser, Joel Fry and Mark Strong don't give career best performances, yet they were extremely fun to watch.
Cruella's most notable feature is easily its aesthetics. With many out-there outfits to feast your eyes upon and gorgeous hair and make-up to match, Cruella becomes one of the best looking movies of the year. The focus on the fashion industry allows the designers to really make an impact with these outfits, and some of Cruella's looks are bound to become iconic. The set design is also gorgeous, especially The Baroness' elegant mansion. There is definitely some bad CGI filtered throughout, particularly with the dogs and the final scene of the movie, but the majority of the cinematography manages to showcase the costumes and sets well.
For the most part, the writers have managed to come up with an engaging plot. Cruella, formally Estella, is an individual who has suffered great trauma, and the movie really allows us to get to know the character as she tries to make a name for herself in the world of West End fashion. She is motivated and driven, and its pretty fun to see her character become madder by the minute. The script also gives us a few plot twists here and there, some more surprising than others yet all of them guiding the plot forward and giving our lead a motive. Setting the movie in the 70's seems like the perfect fit, as it really allows the whole team to go to town with the fashion, soundtrack and punk-rock essence. However, there's still a long way to go with Cruella's evil nature, as she is nowhere near as sinister as she is during the original material. Whether the newly announced sequel is necessary or not, Disney clearly have more to do with this character.
Emma Stone was the perfect casting choice for Cruella, and her dynamic with Emma Thompson made this a pretty strong entry for Disney. The movie is fun from start to finish, with a killer soundtrack, plenty of pups and some of the most exceptional costume design ever put to screen. However, the slow pace is pretty unforgivable, and some of the CGI makes the movie seem much more amateur than it wants to be. If the screws had been tightened with the writing and editing, we could've been looking at Disney's best live action feature. Instead, we have an entertaining yet generic origin story that feels a little disappointing at times.