I don’t really remember the original of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians, I can’t really recall much of the live-action version or the sequel. They were OK, but that’s about it. What I really didn’t need was to know is how Cruella became Cruella. So I went into this with little or low expectations.
Cruella is directed by Craig Gillespie, known for Lars and the Real Girl, the Fright Night remake, The Finest Hours and I, Tonya. The screenplay is by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, with the story done by Aline Brosh McKenna. It stars Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry and Mark Strong.
The storyline, which I’ve edited down a bit is :
Teenaged Estella has a dream, she wishes to become a fashion designer. Having wound up penniless and orphaned in London at 12, 4 years later Estella runs wild through the city streets with her best friends and partners-in-(petty)-crime, Horace and Jasper, two amateur thieves.
That’s all from that, I need to tell you the rest. Little Estella is different and she constantly gets into trouble. She blames herself for her mother’s death, even though it was three Dalmatians that pushed her mother off a cliff…yes, you read that right. It turns out her mother was accused of stealing a necklace, by The Baroness (Thompson) and when she ends up in London, has a chance for revenge and to get back her mother’s necklace back. There is more to the story about The Baroness and her mother, but I won’t spoil it, but it was pretty expected.
Firstly, the talent in this is great. I’m not a massive fan of Emma Stone, but she always gives her best and she is really good in this. She has a couple of great monologues and with her outfits and makeup, she really does seem evil. She then plays off against Emma Thompson really well, who again is giving a belting performance of the ‘bad guy’. The scenes they have together are really great.
The rest of the cast is pretty good, apart from, in the beginning, the two young partners-in-crime, Horace and Jasper, are pretty bad. Nowadays, kid actors are generally pretty good, but these two weren’t, which was a little bit of a letdown.
The music is good, the fashion is amazing and overall the look of the movie is really good, old London is really well done and the CG is convincing.
However, not all of the CG in Cruella is very good. There are two dogs, who are about 15% of the time real, but the rest of the movie dodgy CG. Again, a shame, but I guess they couldn’t be bothered to train the dogs, get them to hit their cues or dress up like a rat and get gasses to death in one scene. Also, because it’s Disney, no animals were hurt in the making of this movie, including any Dalmatians, which was a mixed bag, on the one hand, dogs should have died, on the other, that would have been pretty dark! Disney plays it safe and makes sure all the dogs are OK. Also, one of the dogs wore a patch over one eye, so I just kept thinking about Buck from Ice Age.
I’m going to compare Cruella to Solo: A Star Wars Story… again, I liked Solo, it was a good story, I liked the way it played out, good actors, action, adventure etc, but I didn’t need to see it! Han Solo is one of my favourite characters of all time, but I didn’t really care where he came from, how he met Chewie, why he shot first. Han was Han, we met him on Tatooine and that was that…there was no need for a prequel, so Solo was a pointless movie.
Cruella is kind of the same… it’s not bad, all the actors are having fun, the music is great, but the main letdown is the movie doesn’t need to exist; I have seen it once and I doubt I’ll ever go back to it.
If you have kids, they might like Cruella or it’s probably a good ‘date movie’, I imagine my wife might have liked it. It is 2hours 15 minutes, which is far too long, especially if you have little ones who want to see it. So it gets a straight down the middle 2.5 stars from me.