Dan Holford’s review published on Letterboxd:
“I’m just getting started, darling.”
Pleasantly surprised by this one. 101 Dalmatians had always been one of my favourite Disney animations, ever since I was a kid, so I was a little unsure what to make of a Cruella prequel. It’s a fun, stylish and grandiose origin story for one of Disney’s most beloved villains. A brilliant lead performance from Stone, alongside some gorgeous and impressive costume designs.
The film manages to create a create a punky vibe that fits perfectly to the character. Moving the story to 1970s London, it allows for plenty of punky vibes, gorgeously flamboyant costume designs and a great soundtrack. Craig Gillespie directs really well, with plenty of visual flair to create a vision of London and the fashion industry at the time. It all helps capture the dark charm of Cruella herself perfectly fitting the aesthetic and tone of her character. It pays homage to the original film well enough, with plenty of nice little nods to that original animation without it being overbearing.
The plot is pretty basic, and standard but still serviceable. It’s pretty predictable and big standard for one of these Disney origins. There certainly won’t be many surprises or twists to anyone but it works to get the character from point A to B. I did enjoy the back and forth between Cruella and the Baroness, it’s almost like a family friendly version of The Devil Wears Prada at times, only on a bigger scale. It’s these gorgeous costume designs and grand set pieces really help to keep the movie moving at a rather swift pace, despite the rather long run time. There’s a decent enough script, plenty of great lines of dialogue for Cruella herself. It’s just a shame that some moments of comedy don’t quite land with some of the other characters.
I thought Emma Stone was really strong here, creating a likeable anti-hero. She’s clearly having so much fun in these iconic outfits and delivers every single line with a villainous smirk and sense of mischievousness. Emma Thompson is brilliant throughout too, creating a villain that you truly wanted to dislike but with enough charm and wit to her that it wasn’t overbearing. The rest of the cast are good too, with charming performances from Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser as Cruella’s two bumbling helpers. A couple of the child actors at the beginning of the film were a little ropey, but thankfully it wasn’t too big of a role.
An enjoyable and fun origin movie for an iconic character with plenty of style. I really wish more of these Disney ‘remakes’ would take a route like this, rather than just recreating the exact film but in love action.