While Disney Princesses have never gone out of style with both reimagined fairy-tales and new faces, the Disney Villains brand has seen better days. What were once wicked, villainous and most importantly, stylish characters are now well-acted imitations. There simply hasn’t been an original and entertaining Disney Villain since Mother Gothel… eleven years ago. The ‘Maleficent‘ movies were a chance to revive the brand by reimagining the Mistress of all Evil. However, while those movies have definitely reimagined the character, they use her defining, villainous moments to make us sympathize with her. She even goes so far as to try and remove the curse from Aurora. ‘Cruella‘ however keeps the titular character in a morally ambiguous area. She doesn’t only have style, she is also simply mad. Not mad enough to skin puppies but I wouldn’t put it past her either, given enough time.
SPOILERS FOR ‘CRUELLA‘ ARE INCLUDED IN THIS REVIEW.
Cruella de Vil, a woman who skins puppies for fabulous coats! Disney, the studio that wouldn’t allow Emma Stone to use a cigarette holder in this new movie! How could this movie possibly work? It’s still a question that boggles the mind. The truth is that this movie gets away by constantly tricking you into thinking that this Cruella will cross a line. Will she actually skin puppies or murder a fashion rival? No. The thing is, you know for a fact that it crosses her mind. There is this fantastic scene where Cruella flaunts a Dalmation dress in a punk rock show and it genuinely leaves the viewer questioning whether or not she actually did it. It’s that slight possibility that Cruella will go that far that makes Stone’s portrayal so wickedly entertaining. She has that sense of villainy that Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent lacked. The recent live-action interpretations of Gaston (Luke Evans) and the Evil Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) didn’t need to reimagine their characters because they weren’t the focal point of their respective movies, they were allowed to be evil and wicked. Both delivered a great performance but they didn’t bring anything new to the table. Emma Stone’s Cruella is a morally-gray, unpredictable character and that alone gives this movie a win. They turned her from a ghastly puppy skinner to an incredibly fashionable thief with a passion for fabulous mischief and it worked!
What also helps ‘Cruella‘ stand out from the other live-action Disney remakes is that it actually has personality. From the costumes to the shot composition even down to how the visual effects were used, this movie felt rich and unique. It honestly didn’t feel like a Disney movie at times. I can’t remember the last time a live-action Disney movie had this level of creative liberty and unpredictability. It was genuinely refreshing not knowing where this movie was going or which route it would take. There is a very slight but effective sinister undertone that jumps out in glorious fashion at times. Speaking of fashion, ‘Cruella‘ quite literally understood the assignment! The entire 70’s punk rock aesthetic fits this movie like a glove. The fashion statements and the creative vision of this movie never failed to amaze me. The newspaper headlines appearing with each camera flash was a stroke of genius. I never got tired of seeing it, it’s things like these that made me love the movie even more. The soundtrack was honestly a mixed bag, it worked at times but it also felt shoehorned at other times. I wish they gave the compelling score by Nicholas Britell more time to shine. Other than that, the movie nailed the entire look and feel. The fact that this movie is rated PG-13 is honestly astonishing, you could feel that for the most part, the original vision for this movie is in the final product and that is something I can’t say very often when it comes to other Disney movies.
Emma Stone is fantastic as Cruella, she walks a fine line from being likeable to genuinely intimidating, maybe even mad perfectly. She’s one of those actors who seems so genuine and kind in real life that whenever they play a role like this, it’s slightly jarring but oh so entertaining. You can tell how much fun she had playing this character. The same goes for Emma Thompson who adds yet another iconic role to her resume with the wicked Baroness. She defines the term scene-stealing with a character so vile but so likeable that you can’t help but want more of her. She’s definitely one of the most memorable antagonists in recent memory and I hope to God she gets an important role in the sequel. In fact, I hope every character gets more to do in the future. Secondary characters Jasper, Horace and Artie were a nice surprise, specifically Artie who I desperately need to see more of. The inclusion of Anita and Roger in this movie was definitely a nice touch and I absolutely love how they warped these characters for this version of the story. They’ve always been a beloved Disney couple and I hope the sequel will delve into the romantic aspect of their relationship. It can’t be that hard to beat whatever the hell the 1996 remake had. That being said, a Glenn Close cameo would kill.
Just like the titular character, the movie is at times brilliant, bad (in a Cruella type of way) and a little bit mad. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see Disney embrace their dark side and they more or less did that with ‘Cruella‘. They didn’t keep her puppy skinning ways but they still gave her enough edge and moral complexity to not be considered a typical Disney protagonist or even worse, an anti-hero. Stone and Thompson deliver captivating and scene-stealing performances which will be remembered for many years to come. I honestly can’t wait to see what they come up with for the sequel. May it be even more brilliant, even more bad and a whole lot madder!
Disney’s ‘Cruella’ is now streaming on Disney Plus with Premiere Access as well as on the big screen!