Logan’s review published on Letterboxd:
Cruella is the latest in Disney's attempts to make live action versions of their classic movies, not by retelling the same story, but by using the same characters and world to tell a different story. Cruella obviously focuses on Cruella DeVille, who's obviously iconic and great. At first glance, an origin story about her, staring Emma Stone, set in 70's London is a weird choice, but it actually ends up being one of the best attempts at these Disney live-action retellings.
It's had a lot of Joker comparisons, which isn't unfounded. Not just in the fact it's about the origins of an iconic villain. Everything from the time period, to the look, the soundtrack (they even use the ding 'Smile' which still feels quite tied to the Joker movie) to even certain plot points being kinda similar.
It's obviously different, for one it's obviously tamer than Joker. Like it's not exactly without threat or violence, but there no like brutal murders or anything. Cruella isn't portrayed as outright evil, she comes across more sympathetic than I'd expect.
It structures itself as this rise to power story, seeing Cruella's origins and why she is the way she is as seen in the other movies. But sometimes that backstory is... dumb as fuck. Like some of the reveals and twists had me laughing with just how stupid it is. The movie does have this kind of camp energy to it, with the characters, the different costumes, the comedy, which works really well and fits in this movie. But the more serious elements have a hint of cringe to them with some of the lines.
Emma Stone is undeniably great though. She just has so much charisma and energy for the entire movie and just sells this kind of sarcastic, driven, maniacal character. And while Emma Thompson is playing the most 1-dimensional villain ever, she's completely dedicated to the bit of being so self-centred and ruthless. I also really loved the dynamic with Jasper and Horace and how the 3 of them had actual history and chemistry, seeing them bounce off each other was great and Paul Walter Hauser and Joel Fry do a great job with it.
It's a very fun movie and that all holds up on the technical side. While I don't feel like Craig Gillespie is a super stand out director, he is good and that skill behind the camera shines through in places here. The film uses montages really well and has an overall tight pace despite being 2 hours.
Visually it does look pretty great, I mentioned it before but the costume design and make up in this movie is insane and impressive. Every outfit feels suitably camp and fitting with the scenes, and it's just great.
Nicholas Britell is on the score, and while this isn't a Moonlight/Beale Street level slam dunk score, it's still pretty solid. However it's impact is lessened by all the music in the soundtrack. It feels like the most obvious, overplayed songs are used and they're used constantly throughout in places they often don't fit.
It's a movie that has so many issues; writing, plot points, CGI, the soundtrack. But I just had such a good time with it. It's exciting, it's fairly funny, it's able to be quite light without sacrificing some of the darker or more serious elements. I think it's just big campy fun, which is all I really wanted here.