Cruella

Cruella ★★★

C+

The fact that Cruella succeeds as much as it does is a victory for Disney. What initially seemed like one of the dumbest ideas for an entry in their live-action remake/reimagining “series” surprisingly resulted in one of the best movies they’ve made therein. Not that the standards were particularly high there, but it’s a solid accomplishment nonetheless.

Where the film finds its strength is in its execution. Emma Stone had a lot of weight pressed upon her shoulders but she held her own quite well as a deliciously rebellious youth reflective of 1970s punk counterculture. Her counterpart Emma Thompson arguably performed even better as an over-the-top take on the character Meryl Streep played in The Devil Wears Prada. Watching her chew scenery is an amazing sight, especially here since she clearly had a ton of fun doing so. All of their performance work, along with most of the supporting cast, is well complemented by a film that feels like it was actually made by a human being. There’s purpose to the shot structure, there are deliberate (and quite vivid) uses of color, the style is infectious, and it’s even edited with a considerable amount of energy. That last part is owed partially to the Spotify punk playlist hovering over the majority of this film, which is far from a bad thing, it’s just a bit pervasive and heavily relied upon to keep the momentum going.

Ultimately I think such filmmaking techniques and the quality performance work were both necessary to keep this screenplay from becoming stale, because even though it still engenders more entertainment value than most of these tripe movies, it is rife with the cliches you would expect. Characters say lines that are the most obvious things you would expect them to say in a given moment, the film tries to concoct explanations for parts of the original animation that didn’t need to be explained (and retroactively make such things worse), and as hard as the film tried to make Estella/Cruella sympathetic, I don’t think it ever 100% succeeded. It was fun to watch Emma Stone toy around with the material and bring this character to life, but on the page the transition from an ambitious fashion designer into a conniving, dog skin-obsessed heiress wasn’t all there.

Even so, this was an enjoyable one-time watch. Could have done with some trimming down for both the runtime and contrived moments, but I am pleasantly surprised that this is the one that proved these movies can have some artistic merit to them. (Aside from Pete’s Dragon, which y’all STILL need to see!)

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