Cruella ★★★½

It goes without saying that Disney’s live action remakes of their popular animated movies have been a very controversial topic, having more misses than hits. Even though I really enjoyed "Maleficent", Villain origin stories haven't met with audience approval in large numbers. As far as I am concerned, this one ranks among the best of both the animated remakes and the villains standalone films.

The thing that made me chuckle while watching this movie was the simple fact that not so long ago we had a Guy Ritchie film in which he strove against his own style in favor of something much more conventional, then just a few weeks later comes this movie that follows his own style as director Craig Gillespie keeps the camera moving through the scenery with great tracking shots and a quick editing style that may be reminiscent of Scorsese. The film captures the punk ethos and aesthetic of the decade through its fashion, the dirty London with a nod to the animated counterparts with its Burton-esque creepy mansions with overtly obtrusive headlines. In addition, as many have noted, I loved how conservative, family-friendly Disney went very dark, portraying our villains as the twisted psychos they are. It never fully wentre, but the level of violence was surprising good, and it made the movie much more enjoyable. The writing on this was also great, twists included, and while I could predict some, others came as a surprise and didn't feel cheap to me. Furthermore, it underscores the fact that many have claimed Cruella to be a puppy murderer, but here it shows that her hatred only applies to a single breed, while she adores the rest and they back her up.

There is a growing consensus that Emma Stone's performance here is Oscar-worthy, including my mother, who agreed with this as soon as the credits rolled; and honestly, I wouldn't oppose much at all, since Emma managed to capture the sassiness, the humor, and the malice of this character with masterful restraint, making her truly a sociopath that we've come to love and hate on the same scale. Emma Thompson has not been a performer I've always admired, but here she was terrific, and this might have been my favorite role of hers so far - she delivered wit and coldness in equal measure. Paul delivered a performance that felt very much in line with his other work, but hey, the man may only be able to play with one note, but he does it awesomely. Jasper, played by Joel, was a nice little moral compass and a sort of love interest. In addition, the eye-patched dog stole the show, and the scene with him dressed as a rat had me in stitches.

The only reason why I don’t give this a higher rating is because this has plenty of flaws. At times, the needle drop with songs popping up one after another was great, but at other times, it was obnoxious and excessive. Britell's score is often praised, but personally I barely noticed, thanks to the overabundance of tracks. There is also an issue with the movie's runtime. Easily 20 minutes could have been trimmed, because the entire beginning was a complete drag and without offending Stella, but her performance and writing was such a black hole that completely ruined the movie to me.

All in all, though the film has many shortcomings and is at times derivative, it is still worth watching due to some wonderful performances, great direction, and a very good screenplay.

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