Cruella: Dark Disney Prequel Is Devilishly Fun

4 Dalmatian Coats Out of 5 (one of the best of the year)

This review originally appeared on The Illuminerdi on May 26, 2021.  Check it out here.

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I was skeptical when Disney announced a prequel film following Cruella De Vil.  Could they maintain the fun darkness surrounding this character, let alone find someone who could portray her manic energy?  The answer is surprisingly yes on both counts.  Not only is Cruella edgier than previous Disney remakes, but Emma Stone brings the feisty fashion designer with a penchant for turning puppydogs into pettycoats to life with gleeful abandon.  Cruella is a dark, flashy, and devilishly fun prequel that will leave longtime fans gleaming and novices eager to check out its anti-heroine’s further exploits.

We follow Estella (A fabulous Emma Stone) as she rises from a poor yet streetwise thief to a burgeoning fashion designer under the tutelage of the narcissistic Baroness (Emma Thompson).  However, when Estella discovers some tantalizing information about the Baroness linking back to her past, she embraces her dark side to become Cruella, a flashy fashion mogul who will take down The Baroness at any cost.

I Love Cruella.  The costumes are beautiful and varied, the soundtrack is full of 70’s and 80’s hits, and the storyline seamlessly combines a heist film and a revenge tale, with a darker Devil Wears Prada narrative.  Emma Stone brings youthful energy and confidence to the role, and Emma Thompson is wonderfully wicked as the Baroness.  Paul Walter Hauser and Joel Fry are also fun as minions Horace and Jasper, and its 2 hour, 15 minute runtime scampers by.

Against all odds, Cruella makes you root for its title character’s victory despite her becoming just as evil as the person she’s fighting against.  I applaud Disney for aiming this at older audiences as a change of pace from their normal all-ages fare.  I know they’re a family-oriented company, but if they want to keep me coming back for reinventions of their classic animated tales, this is one road they should go down more often.

My only complaints are that its music is mixed a tad too loudly at times and the CGI Dalmatians needed some work, but outside of that, I consider Cruella Disney’s best live-action interpretation and a deliciously dark, fun ride I wholly recommend.  See Cruella either in theaters or at home on DisneyPlus.

Rated PG-13 for Some Violence and Thematic Elements


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