In Brief: A fairly fun flick, however, Cruella is way-too-much like The Devil Wears Prada.
Cruella Wears Prada. It’s a better title for Cruella than Cruella. More on that later.
Cruella is the backstory for how Cruella Deville became Cruella De Vil, how she connects with Horace and Jasper, and why she ends up hating Dalmatians. While Cruella is a creation of Disney past, this is the new Disney so De Vil — obviously pointing to her being the devil — becomes de Ville as in Cadillac de Ville.
Sanitization? And in a movie that — for Disney — is pretty rough?
Back to Prada as in The Devil Wears Prada. Emma Stone is Estella who eventually becomes Cruella. She has weird hair and an attitude. Estella is also super talented at designing clothing. A designing goal gets her connected with The Baroness.
Now you’re starting to get the Prada part of things.
The Baroness is done by Emma Thompson who channels her inner Miranda Priestly. Miranda is just like The Devil Wears Prada’s villain who was perfectly done by Meryl Streep. Like Streep, Thompson’s villainy is wonderfully done, however, it’s Disney and sometimes her over-the-top villainy is sanitized.
Like Prada’s Miranda, the self-absorbed, credit-taking woman runs poor Estella and the rest of her staff ragged with outrageous demands for perfection. One day Estella learns something awful and personal about The Baroness and she becomes Cruella and seeks revenge.
Cruella is directed by I, Tonya’s, Craig Gillespie. If the movie has a real star, it’s him. He pushes the PG-13 edge with this one and packs it with pieces of great rock tunes that fit perfectly into the plot. Gillespie also infuses the film with excellent special effects, lavish costumes and Disney-like fairy tale sets. While long — two and a quarter hours — by Disney-standards, he keeps his movie moving.
You won’t be bored but you also won’t stop thinking Prada.
That leads us back to Prada — again. One of the creators of the story is Aline Brosh McKenna who wrote the screenplay for The Devil Wears Prada. It doesn’t forgive the rip off but it does explain a lot.
The other two are Fifty Shades of Grey screenwriter, Kelly Marcel and a bit player actor, Steve Zissis.
Fortunately, beatings and bondage found in Fifty Shades were left out of the screenplay that was ultimately written by Dana Fox who put pen to projects like, Isn’t It Romantic, Couples Retreat and How to Be Single. That explains a lot of the movie’s sappyness.
The other screenwriter is Tony McNamara who wrote 2018’s very good, The Favourite. It looks like he managed to keep the sappy crap under control.
Unlike Glenn Close — who was the perfect Cruella in Disney’s live action, 101 Dalmatians and 102 Dalmatians — Stone gives Cruella a little bit of a heart. Her girl next door looks make that easy. What isn’t easy for Stone is the edgy work needed to be — for lack of a better adjective — Cruella.
As always, Stone is very good, and in spite of Cruella” looking more Prada-ish than something out of 101 Dalmatians, so is the movie. But are they as perfect as Close?
Not even close.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Stars: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, John McCrea, Emily Beecham, Mark Strong
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and some violence. Emma Stone doesn’t really look like Cruella. Not like Glenn Close who was perfect. Also, her feigned British accent fails miserably. I had a good time with this one, however, and it somehow manages to work. Credit director Craig Gillespie for that. Give Cruella a 4 on the Friday Flicks with Gary 0 to 5 scale.
Cruella can be seen on Disney+ and in some theaters in the Portland/Vancouver area.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.