Before she became Cruella de Vil, little Estella was determined to challenge the world and become a renowned fashion designer….


Cool to be cruel: Emma Stone

Craig Gillespie’s Cruella thinks it’s fabulous, darling. A live-action ‘origins’ spin on Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), the film follows in the shadow of Maleficent, Joker and TV’s Ratched. The idea is that every bad egg wasn’t laid that way and has its own story to tell. The concept worked a treat in Maleficent and won Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar for Joker. But who next? Moriarty the Movie? However, for anybody expecting Cruella to be a canine romp for children will be deeply disappointed. There are, to be fair, two wonderful canine performers, a one-eyed Chihuahua called Wink and an attentive stray called Buddy. But there are only three Dalmatians and they are a slavering trio from hell with a liking for televised football. So, Cruella is less a pooch parade than a commentary on London’s fashion scene. The Devil Wears Dalmatian maybe.


Cruella plays at being ‘dark’ without really being so. Which makes its 12 certificate (for “moderate threat”) quite baffling. The PG-rated Jurassic Park (way back when) and, say, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, were far more threatening. Had Cruella lived up to its 12A, it might have been something interesting. But it’s neither one thing nor the other. In fact, it might have worked better as a real cartoon, to save the supporting players from so much gurning and eyebrow elevation. Emma Thompson’s arch villainess is a hyperbolic version of the autocrat she played with such wicked precision in Late Night. Here, she just throws things and brandishes a cutthroat razor.


The real stars of the show are the production designer and location manager, who have transformed central London into an authentic 1970s’ facsimile, while Jenny Beavan’s exquisite costume designs steal the acting honours from the cast. Emma Stone, as Cruella, is never less than watchable, reclying her accent from The Favourite and entering into the spirit of a couture combatant like a young Vivienne Westwood. But the film itself is all style and no grit, packing the soundtrack with well-worn pop anthems to steer the action along. At times, it feels like watching a full-length greatest hits video. The painstaking period detail proves to be another peripheral triumph (right down to the Izal medicated loo paper), but is undermined by the anachronistic dialogue. So, there is much to enjoy, but little to get excited about.




Cast: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mark Strong, Tipper Seifert-Cleveland, John McCrea, Jamie Demetriou, Ziggy Gardner, Joseph MacDonald, Florisa Kamara, Andrew Leung, Leo Bill, Tim Steed, Janet Henfrey.


Dir Craig Gillespie, Pro Andrew Gunn, Marc Platt and Kristin Burr, Ex Pro Glenn Close, Jared LeBoff, Emma Stone and Michelle Wright, Screenplay Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, from a story by Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel and Steve Zissis, Ph Nicolas Karakatsanis, Pro Des Fiona Crombie, Ed Tatiana S. Riegel, Music Nicholas Britell, Costumes Jenny Beavan, Choreography Adam Murray, Dialect coach Neil Swain.


Walt Disney Pictures/Gunn Films/Marc Platt Productions-Walt Disney Studios.

134 mins. USA/UK. 2021. Rel: 28 May 2021. Cert. 12A.