Disney’s Cruella | The Reinvention of Cruella de Vil!

Hey All!

I recently had the chance to see an advanced screening of Disney’s Cruella. Over the past decade, Disney has been revisiting their vault of animated characters and stories by converting them into live action. While some are more literal interpretations than others, a couple have actually flipped the original story on its side by exploring the antagonist of classic stories. This latest entry is Disney’s Cruella, brought to life by director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya). The closest attempt to what is done in Cruella was the 2014 the film, which has since spawned one sequel, Malificent. Malificent retold the story of Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of its villainess and giving Malificent a backstory that rationalized her motives.

Cruella follows suit by telling a story about a young Cruella De Vil, before the events of 101 Dalmations. Starring as the young Cruella is Academy Award Winner Emma Stone (La La Land). We even have Cruella’s henchmen, Jasper (the tall and lanky one), and Horace (the shorter and larger one), before they were her lackeys. Jasper is played by Joel Fry (Game of Thrones) and Horace is played by Paul Walter Hauser (Cobra Kai). New characters include Artie, played by John McCrea (Girl/Haji) and Cruella’s antagonist The Baroness played by Academy Award Winner Emma Thompson (Howard’s End).

The performances are spot on for the Disney characters and the interplay between many of them is a rich area for the film. As an example, Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser are perfect in their portrayals of Jasper and Horace. Their dialogue and chemistry matches their Disney animated counterparts perfectly and actually elevates the characters from being 1 dimensional to fully believable and sympathetic; they too get the reinvention treatment designed for Cruella. Naturally the best scenes are between Emma Thompson, as the cold “Anna Wintour-esque” Baroness, and Emma Stone, the titular brilliant but bad Estella/Cruella. Each actress chew the scenery individually, but the scenes explode when they share the screen together as they battle with sharp wit and cruel, yet fashionable, attacks.

I do not think this film should be regarded as a prequel to 101 Dalmations, but rather standing on its own as taking inspiration from the classic and telling an original story using a few of its characters. It can still be called an origin story, but not necessarily an origin story for the Cruella we have known. I prefer to think of this as The Reinvention of Cruella De Vil. Taking from the 90’s live action version of 101 Dalmations in which Cruella is a high fashion designer, this new film explores those roots and places young Cruella growing up in the 60s and 70s as she develops her style and begins building her empire.

The placing of the era makes for very fun and stylistic visuals which range from impoverished and decaying buildings, to elegant and lavish manors and store fronts. But within the contrast is where the film really shines as the punk aesthetic becomes the emphasis in both clothing, attitude, and music. To fit the reinvention of Cruella being aggressive and brilliant with her in-your-face style, the film uses music, editing, and colorful effects to showcase her style and attitude. While the film does state a possible origin for the popular villainess, it could just as easily have been about exploration of the shift in high class fashion from traditional and clean to risqué and messy; this aspect of the film is probably the most fun and interesting to watch.

Cruella is the perfect reinvention of Cruella de Vil! It also has a fun balance of holding true to the most fun aspects of its titular villainess, while also injecting just enough new ideas to make the film just enough of a departure to be engaging. The fashion battles and youth empowerment may not ideal for very young children, but preteens and above should find the material relatable and fun; and it is the preteens to teen audience whom I believe is the target audience. Fans of the classic interpretation will be able to enjoy the homages while still finding new material. While some scenes do have danger and cruelty, nothing horrific is done to anyone on screen, thus allowing the film to really be a viewable for all ages.

Walt Disney Studios’ “Cruella’’ will be available on Disney+ with Premier Access in most Disney+ markets, at the same time as it is released in select theaters on May 28th, 2021. Highly recommend you check it out! Do it for the fashion and music alone!

 

Photos courtesy of Disney.

Comments

  • I was super excited about this and I just thought it was a remake. I had no idea about this storyline. I love the asthetic and visuals. That is really cool that you got to see it early and now I really can’t wait for it. Thank you for the review!

  • I was super excited about this and I just thought it was a remake. I had no idea about this storyline. I love the asthetic and visuals. That is really cool that you got to see it early and now I really can’t wait for it. Thank you for the review! (This may be a duplicate comment but I only hit publish once. Sorry if it is).