Cruella - B+
Rated PG-13, 134 minutes
The immensely enjoyable "Cruella" from Disney, is part origin story and part live-action remake centered about the backstory for Cruella De Vil, the villain who made "101 Dalmatians" so much fun. Though skimming over some serious issues in typical Disney fashion, this original, well-acted take on Cruella De Vil is one of Disney's better entries of their recent live-action remakes.
Set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, "Cruella" follows a young grifter and orphan named Estella (Oscar-winner Emma Stone), who is determined to make a name for herself with her fashion designs. Estella soon meets Baroness von Hellman (two-time Oscar-winner Emma Thompson), a fashion legend who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute. But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable and revenge-bent Cruella.
In what is essentially a showdown between two Oscar-winning Emma's, "Cruella" is an entertaining backstory that brims with energy and charm, thanks to both of those Emma's in the leads. It's really a sanitized "Devil Wears Prada" meets "Joker" without Meryl Streep and all the blood. Stone is quite good as Cruella, and she's a good match for Thompson, who much like Streep, threatens steal to the film, especially in its early chapters.
The immaculate costumes, the sets and especially the music are all quite sublime and evident that Disney has again pulled out all the stops. It's also evident that it's a Disney production in its sanitized look at some serious issues, namely mental health - especially psychosis and personality disorder. Stone's brief monologue near the end of the film, in which she bids farewell to Estella, is one of the film's finest moments. Given "Cruella's" source material - the classic animated "101 Dalmatians" films as well as the 1990's Glenn Close live-action ones - it might be too disturbing to explore these themes on a deeper level, which is probably a wise move on Disney's part.
There's many other things to enjoy about "Cruella" and director Craig Gillespie ("I, Tonya") paces the action nicely as to not let up on its energy. It goes on a tad too long and could've have been tightened up in its middle act, but overall still a decent execution. Set against 1970's glam punk rock London, the winning "Cruella" delivers the goods and provides Stone with a possible franchise role (and a wonderful wig and costumes) if this does well, and I anticipate it will. Definitely worth your time.