BlackNerdMagic’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I am Cruella. Born brilliant, born bad”
If the expectations are set on seeing Disney taking a darker tone with one of their storied characters, be prepared to have the rug lifted from under your feet.. Cruella spends much of its time conflicted with what it wants to do with its iconic antagonist that features a wild and exceptional at times performance from one Emma Stone. Benefits are found in the awesome costume design that I’m sure will be taken advantage of by young girls when the holiday of Halloween makes it mark later on this year. The first half builds up the sympathetic tone that the origin story wants to provide a character known for her hatred of spunky dalmatians but also deliver the spicy moments of her diving head first into turning the streets of London into a canvas of rebellion proportions. The second half flip flops between the good and bad aspects of the character so much that this is never a centered resolution on how a viewer is suppose to feel about her.
Doesn’t help that the main villain has an even bigger villain to battle against fully taking away the qualities and standing she is know for from other Disney adventures; on that note, Emma Thompson is marvelous as a narcissistic but sneakily charming fashion designer who carries a big part in the formation of who Cruella eventually becomes. Outside of the glowing tow female leads, the supporting characters fail to do anything other than be dry wallpaper in this live action adventure. Paul Walter Hauser and Joel Fry are two accomplished actors who deserve more than being a couple of bumbling sidekicks who are at the whim of half baked comedic ideas.
Disney, as a company, makes money like a human who unconsciously remembers to take a breath every few seconds. There is no excuse for their films to have poorly developed CGI and unattractive background effects like these especially if the marketing vehemently wants you to believe that this is the next big blockbuster to hit the screen. The dogs in the film (including the plastic looking Dalmatians) inspire chuckles of embarrassment rather than pixie dust magic. Maybe the money that went to the constant barrage of needle drops should have been directed to the visual department. The music is nothing more than a Spotify playlist of commonly used songs in movie history that add nothing to the narrative and gets tiresome when they are in the background interrupting the conversation flow between characters.
The atmosphere of the films comes off as a strong Disney Plus original film than a potential billion dollar blockbuster draw. No elements of the film speaks to being a valuable part of bringing people back to theaters after the extended nature of a pandemic. Why put this behind a Premier Access block wall of $30? Release to the loyal consumers who are already giving money for a subscription because it will be hard to see this as a investment for the general audience and a die hard cinephile. Missed opportunity in going deeper into the punk rock aesthetic which is only given serious thought in the form of one scene featuring a concert. Nothing new to see here; just another Disney live action film unable to do anything but rest on the laurels on the brand.