Written by: Dana Fox & Tony McNamara
Starring: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham
Some villains carry a level of intrigue in how they approach the world that allows them to have something deeper to dig into other than being a simple antagonist in a children’s movie. Notice the use of the word “some” because this does not mean all of them do, and unfortunately, Disney’s obsession with churning out a profit on every character they can manifest in the horrid origin story, Cruella, leaves no one looking good in the end.
After witnessing her mother get killed by the Dalmations of Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), Estella (Emma Stone) hopes to work in fashion as an adult. Living most of her youth years working as a thief with her practically adopted brothers, Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), she gets the opportunity to work in her preferred industry like she always wanted. This presents the opportunity to show out and become an icon in her own way, even if she gets seen as a villainous figure.
Trying to comprehend where the creatives behind this film thought it would be a good idea to create this other than making money befuddles me. You take a villain known by all who have heard of her for wanting to skin puppies and take their fur for her own accessories and then making it into a feature film where she receives some sympathy lines up as much as making a romantic comedy about Buffalo Bill. Of all the villains to choose, they elect to go with the puppy killer and this feature definitely tries its best to distract from this fact going all the way to casting the incredible Emma Stone in the lead role. Now, anyone who reads my reviews knows the respect I have for Stone and how she simply dazzles in everything she does, but Cruella becomes the first time she could not save a dumpster fire she willingly jumped in.
Even with terrible films, the fault can be found with the grander story with some elements standing out. In this feature, the only thing working for it comes in the costumes. Working as a feature film all about fashion this should be a given, but some of the fabric work here truly astounds in how it outlines the personalities of these characters. The other can be found in the soundtrack that Disney must have paid an exorbitant amount of money for, but even then gets overused to the point where you sit there pointing out all of the songs because of their recognizability. Those are the only true positives of the feature as everything else completely flounders in trying to be anything but good quality.
Yes, the lack of quality comes in the performances, which many have claimed serves as the saving grace of this feature. While Emma Stone and Emma Thompson certainly give performances, the way in which they play out these characters feels like an absurd level of overacting. Stone, in particular, who I adore as an actor, really just feels incredibly unreal as a person. Cruella is meant to represent a larger-than-life person, but the way Stone portrays her makes the case that this woman is actually an alien. From every “darling” to the way she speaks every word and walks, I cannot be certain of whether or not this came into creation as a prank. Absolutely shocking and she certainly does not represent the only one doing this. Emma Thompson misses the mark as well as the almost offensive performance given by Paul Walter Hauser as Horace. Just everything the man said felt like a practice joke take they actually kept in the movie. Horrible accent work to say the least from him, which only got worse when nearly everything he said came across as a failed joke.
No one in this film feels like a real person, which hilariously contradicts the assertion by many of this film being one of Disney’s most mature films within their live-action adaptations. I suppose by the degree of the content covered in the film, but even then how is anything meant to be taken seriously in this film when none of these circumstances feel grounded by any stretch of the imagination to the point where there are dogs who commit murder of an innocent woman. An utter and complete misfire of the highest order that should be considered a crime.
Seriously, just go watch The Devil Wears Prada if you want to experience what this film wants to evoke without enduring a 134-minute rip-off with some Disney twist to it. The best way to display my feelings about this feature comes from watching it with my wife and pausing the film for a bathroom break. When we saw there was still an hour left of the movie, we truly contemplated turning it off but persisted because we wanted to give it a fair shot. I suppose we made the wrong decision there. Truly, I hope whoever finds this entertaining had a good time because this soulless and callous junk does a disservice to all individuals involved.