“Madness is like gravity, all it takes is a little push.” -The Joker
Heralded as the Joker of the Disney world, Cruella is an origin story intent on humanizing an otherwise wholly despised villain. Embodying the black and white villainess and to a brilliant extent is Emma Stone. While it follows certain typical Disney tropes, Cruella still manages to carve out an identity it can be proud of. This is in no small part thanks to Stone herself, carrying the legacy of such a character while also making it her very own.
If La La Land didn’t prove her worth as an actor then Cruella certainly will. Not only is she convincing as the up-and-coming villainess she portrays an affinity for playing with her character, manipulating her in a fun and interesting way. It’s obvious Stone is having a blast as Cruella de Vil. Every scene she’s featured in, which is most of the film, she is commanding and exciting to watch. She is the best reason I can give to anyone thinking about seeing the film, she alone is worth the price of admission.
The story, while entertaining, is that typical Disney trope I spoke of earlier. She is a young but genius adolescent who is clearly different from her peers. She stands out in every way. (I realize no one wants to watch a normal, unmotivated child) Before long her path is laid out in front of her as tragedy strikes. I won’t specify the tragedy but it’s Disney, I bet your first, second, and third guesses are all correct. It’s exactly what you’re thinking. Using the tragedy as a jumping off point, Cruella is born to roam and cause havoc with her two goons/friends close to her side and keen for any kind of caper. London never stood a chance.
Another standout and interestingly the more evil character in the bunch is The Baroness, played with a pure kind of hatred and deplorability by Emma Thompson. Standing between Cruella and her dream of becoming a world renowned clothing designer, The Baroness has her grips on the industry and will quite literally destroy anyone who even hints at an attempt for the crown of clothing queen. Of course this is Cruella we’re talking about, a conflict is impending and guaranteed to spark some ill will. Emma Thompson, while the villain, is more teacher here, giving Estella (Cruella in the making) a lesson in what to do if she ever hopes to fulfill her destiny. Taking her work seriously, Thompson as The Baroness is cruel and oddly entertaining. She has moments all in the same scene that are filled with cruelty and humor all shaping her as a true psychopath power hungry and egotistical to a level rarely seen in a human being.
Beyond the standout performances of Stone and Thompson, I think one of the film’s greatest strengths is the balancing of its main character as both hero and villain. You could call her an anti-hero of sorts commanding both the light and dark of her soul, a striking personality on either side of the coin. She is the villain in the making but as it’s been said, we are all the hero of our own story and she certainly lives up to the title of hero, just maybe with a bit of blood on her hands for good measure.
Cruella is a mixture of retreaded storyline and tremendous performances doused in a beautifully constructed and fully realized 1960’s London. The characters are nuanced and entertaining. Cruella in particular pulls you along wondering if she will do the right thing when it presents itself all the while hoping she’ll do something, if only a little bit, evil. Her last name is devil after all. She is a criminal of heroic proportions.
Rated PG-13 For: some violence and thematic elements
Runtime: 134 minutes
After Credits Scene: Mid-credits, yes.
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Starring: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser
Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 6/ Acting: 9/ Directing: 8/ Visuals: 8
OVERALL: 8.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. Streaming on Disney+ for $30 and a subscription. Also playing in theaters Friday, May 28th.
Check out the trailer below:
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