THEATRICAL REVIEW: Devious, dark Cruella among Disney’s live-action best

Perhaps the most admirable thing about live action origin story Cruella is that it takes big swings.

Even more impressive is that more often than not, it hits its plot beats, costumes, and character interpretations out of the park.

Cruella is not an easy film – it’s a different shade of Disney that we don’t often see. It’s one that doesn’t shy away from death, a bit of mayhem and a much different tone than the original 101 Dalmatians.

But in the hands of filmmaker Craig Gillespie, known for quirky hits like I, Tonya, Lars and the Real Girl, and the Fright Night remake, it hits a perfect stride.

Gillespie has also directed some Disney family friends hits like Million Dollar Arm and the Finest Hours. He strikes a balance between family film and blissful quirk and exuberant excess here that is really difficult to pull off.

Thats what makes Cruella astounding. Everyone commits, for better or worse, and they come out the other side with a hit film that has differentiated itself completely from most commercial Disney hits.

Chief among fantastic calls is the casting of Oscar winner Emma Stone as a young Cruella, and the tone she strikes as she changes into a woman from film history we’ve hated for decades.

Stone is stunning, to put it lightly, and manages to match Glenn Close without ever letting us feel she’s imitating.

Emma Thompson is brutal and cunning as The Baronness, boss to young fashion designer Estella – who will morph into Cruella – and she is so mean, so ruthless, that I barely recognized her.

Clint Eastwood was onto something casting Paul Walter Hauser in Richard Jewell, and the incredible actor is wonderful as henchman Horace, with Joel Fry filling out Jasper nicely.

Judging by the set pieces, illuminating costume design and overall visual style, a lot of money and thought went into starting a new franchise, and I absolutely welcome it. This was a remake worth conjuring up.

4/5 Stars

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