I hadn’t planned on going to see this, skipped it upon its release in May. I randomly saw a WEBM from the movie that was so ridiculous I thought it had to be fake. It wasn’t.
I loved Gillespie’s I, Tonya. One of my favorite movies of 2017. I also have a massive crush on Emma Stone, ever since seeing her smile at the end of Zombieland while The Black Keys played. I call her Miss Hollywood and have enjoyed watching her blossom from the secondary female lead in Superbad to an Oscar-winning A-lister. Like all kids, I remember the Disney 101 Dalmatians and I even enjoyed the 1995 version with Glenn Close.
All this should’ve set up Cruella for an easy, enjoyable watch. Instead it was just okay, and even then just barely. I blame Disney and their Disney-ing around. Trying to be too many things at once, a prequel to a beloved children’s brand and an edgy villain origin story and a dark comedy and The Devil Wears Prada for kids and blah blah blah.
Stone doesn’t just chew the scenery here, she gnaws it. We watch her enjoy herself while getting paid an A-lister salary. It’s ultimately a better time for her than it is for us. I’d wager recently becoming a mother probably factored into her taking this role. She tries, though, and hard. I enjoyed Joel Fry as Jasper though I’d never heard of him (apparently he was in Game of Thrones?). Emma Thompson Emma Thompsons the shit out of her role and her and Stone have some legitimate chemistry when things go right. Mark Strong isn’t given anything to do. Paul Walter Hauser is totally wasted, essentially playing Horace as a Cockney version of his character from BlackKklansman.
The set design and costume design are very impressive, the best thing the movie has going for it. Thank you Disney budget. The movie is edited frenetically, the camera moving and dollying and swooping and sweeping and diving and zooming in almost every single shot. There is a ton of unneccesary cgi — most of it cgi dogs but even cgi letters off the back of a motorcycle at one point. The screenplay is all over the fucking place and has some dialogue that veers into downright cringey. Stone makes it work when she can.
The soundtrack is actually pretty bad ass but it doesn’t fit —it’s jarring seeing Cruella DeVil plot her fashion schemes over The Zombies, Blondie, The Stooges and even fucking Black Sabbath.
In fact, that’s the whole issue with the movie. It doesn’t once feel like this could lead into 101 Dalmatians, even though Anita Daah-ling is shoe-horned in as a press photographer. Glenn Close’s Cruella chewed the scenery, too, but she was believable; she fit into the mold of the Disney original. Stone’s Cruella is something else entirely, and it doesn’t work. What’s tragic is you can see how it might have.
It’s not Joker for Cruella (and Joker wasn’t a great movie either, it was a crappy movie with a great performance at its center). It might try to be, but it tries to be a lot of things. And that’s the problem. It never makes up its mind as to what it actually is. The lead performances and production design do keep it from tanking entirely. But Cruella aspires to greatness and fails due to deep-seated flaws. In that way it’s a lot like its title character.