Emma Stone as Cruella in Disney’s live-action ’Cruella’. Picture: Laurie Sparham/2021 Disney Enterprises Inc.
Emma Stone as Cruella in Disney’s live-action ’Cruella’. Picture: Laurie Sparham/2021 Disney Enterprises Inc.

'Cruella' is utter madness

By Jamal Grootboom Time of article published May 28, 2021

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Rating 3/5

“Cruella” had the potential to become a cult classic for reimagining one of the most iconic Disney villains but is shackled by having to fit into the ’House of Mouse’ mould.

Set as a prequel for “101 Dalmatians”, “Cruella” is an origin story for the iconic villain from childhood to what gave birth to the villain we love and know.

Going into “Cruella”, like any millennial in modern times, I was confused as to why Disney decided to make this since no one asked for it and we are currently oversaturated with studios using nostalgia to lure viewers in.

Seeing the trailer and finding out that Cruella/Estella (Emma Stone) was going to be an aspiring fashion designer in the 70s left me intrigued since it could potentially be a great fashion story, but I also wanted to see how Disney was going to handle queer characters.

Since there’s no way you can do a movie about the fashion industry at the time, in London and not have queer characters galore.

Especially, because Cruella is such a gay icon after Glenn Close’s portrayal of the character previously. And we all know when it comes to queerness in Disney properties they tend to queer-code characters but never outright acknowledge their queerness.

“Cruella” was no different and it’s disappointing to see a movie that had the potential for Disney to finally make that leap, it goes the same queer-coded route.

Especially since they collaborated with a bunch of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” queens to promote this movie.

But I digress. “Cruella” is a fun ride and when it comes to the fashion aspect darling... the fashions are immaculate. The costume design, done by Jenny Beavan, for Cruella and The Baroness is phenomenal – especially if you’re a lover of all things related to clothing construction and fashion in general.

Cruella or Estella starts with a more structured clothing wardrobe in the vain of Carolina Herrera or Alexander McQueen.

And once Cruella enters the stage, her wardrobe shifts to a more punk vibe with inspiration being drawn from Vivienne Westwood.

This movie has lewks upon lewks that will leave you gagging.

Speaking of films based around the fashion industry, it’s clear that Miranda Presley was on the mood board for Emma Thompson’s take on The Baroness.

Think of her as a campier version of the infamous editor of Runway Magazine.

Thompson does a fantastic job along with the comic relief characters Jasper and Horace, played by Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser respectively.

They all lean into the campy nature of this film and are the best parts of the movie. Where things go a bit off the rails is Stone as Estella/Cruella.

And the problem is when she’s playing Estella “too well” and gives a heartfelt portrayal of the character which is a stark contrast to everyone else in the movie.

The sharp shift when she’s Cruella is also abrupt and is too campy.

It’s just strange that she goes from a character the audience has an emotional connection to, to a moustache-twirling Disney villain, it does feel like Daenerys Targaryen all over again where the flip to full-blown lunacy seems out of place.

The pacing is also weird since at various points it feels like the movie is about to end but it keeps going.

There’s a glorious campy fashion film trapped in a Disney movie and the two are constantly at odds with each other.

Another big gripe I’ve had with Disney giving famous villains origin stories has been them making them into redeemable characters and cause plot holes along with continuity issues for the films that are supposed to follow them.

Cruella also suffers from this, and in the end, I still wasn't sure why she hated dalmatians.

This movie is probably one of the better prequel films from the “House of Mouse”, but at the same time it is stuck in the constraints of being a Disney movie and it squanders the potential it had to be a true moment for the iconic villain with black and white hair.

“Cruella” is showing in cinemas nationwide.

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