By Mr. Will Wong
One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ Cruella de Vil has become synonymous with greed, evil and vanity. Director Craig Gillespie gets the tall order of giving us an origins story for one of Disney‘s most iconic villains of all time, and does it with great style and flare in Disney’s CRUELLA. If anyone knows how to deliver a story about a misunderstood hero, it would be this Filmmaker responsible for films like Lars and the Real Girl and I, Tonya.
CRUELLA traces the journey of a young girl, Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) who is orphaned at a young age and left to her own devices surviving the life of a pickpocket on the streets of London with her friends Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry). With an eye for fashion, Estella grows-up and lands a job working for cruel Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), who heads a very respected fashion house. As the unpleasable The Baroness sees her great talent, Estella soon too realizes her own true potential and that she might be enough to take on her boss. She adopts an alternate persona in Cruella, uncovering a dark secret about the Queen Bee herself. Cruella becomes The Baroness’ arch-nemesis and both are willing to do whatever it takes to destroy the other.
We get family, fashion, friction and ferocity. But most importantly, fun. Stone is spectacular in the titular role, exploring the duality of Estella‘s sweetness and humility, but also Cruella’s delicious extravagance and determination to eliminate The Baroness. In a moment of realization late in the Film where she realizes her true identity, she shows us the true stuff of the Oscar winner she is. Thompson is mesmerizing, making evil so irresistible, but also we find ourselves onboard with her jadedness as she deals with the force to be reckoned with that is the younger, talented and exciting Cruella. Supporting turns from Fry and Hauser who do some of the heavy lifting in Cruella’s rise, are a joy to watch. While there is a slight eluding to a love story between Estella and the former, it was wise to leave that leaf unturned as it was unnecessary.
Gillespie delivers a dazzling feast for the senses and in its 134 minutes, the Film moves along at a lively pace. Its moody and cinematic ’70s Soundtrack takes us back to the time and evoke a feel, which at times slightly reminiscent of 2018’s Joker. While it certainly approaches darker than expected territory for Disney, it passes for family viewing with supervision and we’re pleased that it was allowed to go there. The costumes by Academy Award-winning Designer Jenny Bevan are unbelievable and a spectacle within a spectacle. Everything about CRUELLA is rich in detail and intention, from the sets to the way Thompson‘s eyelashes are drawn. And did we mention the lovable canine actors? Wink, played by Bluebell is the unbilled star of the show, and let’s not forget Estella‘s companion Buddy, performed by Bobby. They nail some pretty complicated sequences and are sure to win some hearts.
The Film definitely warrants another watch as surely particulars were missed at first glance. And we’d gladly do it all again.
Disney’s CRUELLA arrives in theatres and on-demand Friday, May 28, 2021.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre.*