Nathan is a film critic and aspiring author with a true passion for the film industry who hopes his writings will help launch his career.
Let me start by saying Cruella is definitely not a children's film. Young kids will probably not understand the film's themes. The film is more for teens and adults, people who can sympathize and philosophize and can understand Cruella's motives and descent into Disney's villain hall of fame.
Cruella follows young Estella, a girl who is orphaned after her mother falls off a cliff. She finds two street thieves and joins them, slowly getting better and better at thieving. One day, on her birthday, her friend Jasper gives her an acceptance letter to be an intern at one of the best fashion stores in town. She eventually is noticed and becomes a designer for The Baroness, the top fashion mogul in the world. But good things never last, and what Estella discovers leads the way to her becoming Cruella De Vil.
I have nearly all-positive praise for this film and Disney as well. While it's certainly not the first time Disney's made a film specifically for an older crowd (Pirates of the Caribbean), this was a bold move on Disney's part and they pulled it off nicely. Disney made Maleficent, I know, but she falls under the misunderstood category as she wasn't a true villain in the reimagining but rather someone who was hurt and felt unloved and taken advantage of. Cruella, however, is a true villain origin story and seeing it unfold is nothing short of magical. For those of you concerned that it's Disney's version of Joker, be relieved that it's nowhere near that extent. Joker lives in a delusional state and finds acts of violence and rebellion funny. Cruella, on the other hand, just wants revenge for her mother's death. She's completely aware of what she's doing, even though you could make the argument that she developed Dissociative Identity Disorder along the way. She doesn't find her actions funny, she finds them necessary. If anything, she's more comparable to Christopher Nolan's Bane character, someone who considers himself a necessary evil in order to restore balance.
Emma Stone is fantastic as Cruella, so much so that when she's in full Cruella mode, you can't even tell that it's Emma anymore. She completely transformed into the villainess and that's the marks of a great actress with fantastic direction. Emma Thompson was also brilliant as the Baroness. I'm not sure I've ever seen Emma Thompson play a full-fledged villain but I must say she does it brilliantly.
Director Craig Gillespie's choices for the film were utter perfection, and the three writers on the film collaborated so well and brought a remarkable vision to life.
For those wondering if there's still some cute puppy action, yes there is, albeit not in the way you might think. There's a chihuahua and a mutt that steal the dog spotlight. The Baroness's three dalmatians are painted as villains as well, which makes sense for a number of reasons. One, the dalmatians are an extension of The Baroness herself so of course they're just as bad as she is. Two, in the original animation, Cruella hates dalmatians. Now we know why.
The soundtrack was amazing too! Bold move on Disney's part for using I Wanna Be Your Dog in a pivotal moment in the film. There's over 30 other songs sprinkled throughout the film that ranges from the 60s to the 80s and almost every song choice was perfect.
Here's my only negative comment. The song that plays during the credits before the extra scene is a little much for a Disney film. Even with Cruella being aimed at older audiences, that song completely sends the wrong message and contradicts what the film spent over 2 hours setting up. I also felt The Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil was inappropriate for a Disney film as well. I mean, I get it, De Vil is a play on Devil, hence Sympathy for the Devil. Yeah it's a great pun. But the song's words are a bit extreme for the film it's in.
In conclusion, despite my issue with the end music, I'm still rating this film a 4 out of 4. The choices, both in design and in writing and directing were outstanding and the performances elevate the film to being one of the best live-action Disney films ever made. Standing ovation, Disney. Great work.
© 2021 Nathan Jasper