Cruella ★½

Decidedly lousy, but compared to the absolute dreck that most of these Disney remakes have been (to call both The Lion King and Aladdin a waste of time would be an understatement) that's a marginal improvement. Cruella at least feels like someone had an idea; it's a crap idea but one all the same.

Here is the fundamental problem with this film, the entire enjoyment of Cruella de Vil as a character (at least in the animated original and Dodie Smith's novel) is that she's an unhinged egomaniac who simply wants everything to go her way and becomes increasingly demented when that doesn't happen. An arrogant, callous woman who sharply represented the cold-hearted nature of her industry and class. Therefore, we understand why she sees everything as a commodity and it's amusing to see her confronted or outwitted. Forcing her to have a tragic backstory which involves a ridiculous bloodline conspiracy does nothing but reduce her effectiveness as a character. I couldn't care less whether or not she wants to skin dogs in this version, but I'm bored to tears of this trend where villains must be sympathetic. Sometimes people are just cruel and that can be done interestingly with some effort (which Disney seems to be allergic to).

This is a contentious opinion of mine, but I don't get the appeal of Emma Stone. Her performances always feel very self-conscious, almost as if she's visualising her next line instead of capturing the appropriate emotion; here she's meant to be playing someone who is immensely flamboyant and cunning, but I never found her expressions or delivery believable and her robotic attempt at an RP accent doesn't help matters. The bombastic, discount Scorsese directorial approach from Craig Gillespie doesn't work either since the material isn't inventive or anarchic enough for such a style. I would like to thank this film though for allowing me to experience what it must feel like to be locked inside a jukebox because I swear there wasn't more than two minutes without a needle drop. The soundtrack is so full of obvious, insipid rock tunes from the 60s & 70s era that I genuinely expected my dad's name to be listed in the credits as music consultant.

I can speak positively about the stunning costume designs by Jenny Beavan as they bring vibrancy to an otherwise dull colour palette and the supporting cast who are all quite fun, especially Emma Thompson who conveys ruthlessness delightfully well. Beyond that, there's very little here to justify the existence of an origin story that nobody in this universe was remotely interested in.

Chris liked these reviews