The devil wears Dalmatian fur: “I, Tonya” director Craig Gillespie tells in CRUELLA, how the eponymous “101 Dalmatians” villain became who she is. The result is an extravagant mix of “The Devil Wears Prada”, “Joker” and of course its animated original. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Cruella (USA 2021)
London in the 1970s: In the midst of the punk rock revolution, the clever con artist Estella (Emma Stone) tries to make a name for herself with her creative looks. Together with the two young thieves Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) as “partners in crime”, she roams the streets of London until one day she attracts the interest of Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) thanks to her eye-catching designs directs. A fashion legend – stunningly chic and hard to beat in terms of elegance. But the encounter between the two unlikely women sets in motion a series of events and revelations that lead to Estella turning her dark side outward and turning her into the feared and vengeful Cruella de Vil, who uses all means in the competition for the perfect design are right.
The Disney company has discovered a real gold mine with the concept of re-releasing its most famous animated classics as live-action films. Although not every remake from the mouse company proves to be as successful as the lifelike animated reinterpretation of “The Lion King”, for example, contrary to many skeptics who accuse Disney of “always doing the same thing”, the production house is at least doing it pleasantly varied. While a “Cinderella” or “Aladdin” are largely based on their animated original, completely new narrative approaches were approved for “The Jungle Book” and Tim Burton’s “Dumbo”. And in “Maleficent – The Dark Fairy” (and its even weaker sequel), which was unfortunately rather poor in quality, the focus was completely changed by not retelling the life of the princess who was the focus of the Disney fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty”, but rather that one the evil fairy and Sleeping Beauty’s adversary Maleficent. “I, Tonya” director Craig Gillespie and screenwriting duo Dana Fox (“How to be Single”) and Tony McNamara (“The Favorite – Intrigue and Madness”) take a similar approach for “Cruella”. They tell the backstory of the “101 Dalmatians” villain Cruella De Vil, very loosely based on the events of the 1961 cartoon. A reinterpretation that is so detached from the original offers the makers a lot of freedom and opportunities for free development, since they are If you never completely detach yourself from the template, some decisions can also cause irritation. On the whole, “Cruella” works primarily thanks to an outstanding duo of leading actresses who wage a bizarre, extravagant fashion war in London in the 1970s.
Emma Stone takes on the role of Dalmatian fur-loving supervillain Cruella De Vil.
Two sources of inspiration for “Cruella” are obvious given the production: David Frankel’s Oscar-nominated tragicomedy “The Devil Wears Prada”, which takes a fictionalized look behind the scenes of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world (at the film’s title “Runway “, it is actually about “Vogue” and Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestley is an image of “Vogue” boss Anna Wintour), and the supervillain portrait “Joker”, published in 2019, about the Batman adversary of the same name. Both films used for comparison and their influences can be identified in “Cruella”. In the case of the “Joker”, however, they are of a more negative nature. Just like Todd Phillips’ highly acclaimed crime drama, Todd Phillips and his co-author decided to seek connections to the Batman universe a little too intentionally, although the film would have worked even without a direct reference to it and the appearance of the Wayne family Scott Silver (“The Finest Hours”) for still including such obvious cross-references in their film, but without referring to a specific screen adaptation. The authors of “Cruella” are now doing something similar, and they also have well-known characters appear in their story without directly linking it to the animated film. The biggest indication of this: Anita Darling, who was portrayed as a white blonde in the original, becomes an African-American journalist in the original “Cruella” film, played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste (“Happily”), while her friend Roger, who was only seen briefly anyway, played by “5 Rooms, Kitchen, Coffin” star Kayvan Novak, also had to lose his blonde hair and his gaunt appearance. In short: “Cruella” is only partially true to the original, so the question arises: Does/should the film even be seen as a direct prequel to the animated film, or tell a stand-alone origin story of the Disney villain?
“’Cruella’ is only partially faithful to the original, so the question arises: Does the film actually want to be seen as a direct prequel to the animated film, or tell a stand-alone origin story for the Disney villain?”
We say clearly: the latter, because not only the appearance of these two supporting characters differs too blatantly from the original to be able to link directly to the “101 Dalmatians” cartoon. There are many other indications that Craig Gillespie and his team for “Cruella” only used the repertoire of the Dalmatian films, but never directly intended to continue them. Such as the characterization of Cruella’s villain friends Jasper and Horrace, who – despite their comic relief character – are damned dark contemporaries in the original, but in “Cruella” they almost embody the good conscience of their boss, whom they escape from several times try to point us down a slippery slope. Further details such as Cruella’s passion for Dalmatian furs or her friendship with Anita are hinted at in the remake, but are never used as much as one would expect from a prequel that follows the events in “101 Dalmatians”. What some viewers might find vague gives the creators enormous freedom. Most of the time, “Cruella” is less a film about a villain preparing for her big coup of stealing dozens of Dalmatian puppies, but rather is about a passionate fashion designer whose feud with the influential designer Baroness von Hellmann significantly shapes the tone of the film. Emma Thompson (“Late Night”) The extremely self-confident and equally extravagant Baroness acts as a consistently advanced meanie version of Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestley, who has a lot of knowledge about fashion and fashion design, but will literally go to great lengths to achieve her goals. You won’t find anything like a “soft core” (albeit a tiny one) like Miranda Priestley had in the Baroness. Something that Thompson, who acts in a particularly affected manner, clearly enjoys and even steals the show from the main actress, Emma Stone, more than once.
Emma Thompson plays the self-centered Baroness in “Cruella,” while Mark Strong plays her servant John.
In addition to Emma Thompson, two things are significantly involved in this “show”: On the one hand, there is Emma Stone’s egocentric portrayal of Cruella, who authentically changes from the good Estella to the nasty Cruella over the course of around two hours. The circumstances of Cruella’s childhood remain largely rudimentary and fall victim to a twist in the second half of the film that would only have been needed to a limited extent in terms of content. But the “La La Land” actress manages a fine balancing act between grandly gesticulating villainy and a touch of vulnerability, which anchors a humanity in her character for long stretches of the film that seems much more believable than in “Maleficent,” in which the attempt is made To admit that Maleficent had a good soul seemed too trying and arbitrary. On the other hand, there is the production itself, which, with its dark punk rock attitude, takes the film far away from family-friendly cinema (we consider the FSK rating for ages 6 and up to be very questionable at this point, especially since some trailers had already received a higher rating ). Craig Gillespie relies on an absolute overkill of spectacular costumes and hairstyles; Above all, Cruella’s penchant for spontaneous guerrilla actions – be it spontaneous fashion shows taking place on the street or the metaphorical explosion of other major social events through Cruella’s sudden appearance as a new designer sensation – gives the film a good dose of anarchy. This makes “Cruella” pleasantly unpredictable, especially in the middle section, but also ensures that the sometimes over-ambitious stringing together of as many seventies pop and rock songs as possible seems a little too intrusive under the circumstances; Especially since the content of the titles does not always match the situation in which they are placed. Greetings from “Suicide Squad”!
“The production, with its dark punk rock attitude, takes the film far away from family-friendly cinema. Craig Gillespie relies on an absolute overkill of spectacular costumes and hairstyles.”
In addition to the occasionally intrusive music selection, the technical effects in “Cruella” often seem unconvincing. Overall, the film relies significantly less on CGI than various other live-action Disney films; After all, most of the time the plot is directly rooted in reality. But whenever those responsible have to resort to computer tricks, they are recognizable as such. This is particularly annoying because in most cases the animated details wouldn’t have been needed at all. “Cruella” is always strongest when the focus is simply on the war between the two designers. The many interspersed details that underline the story’s origins as a cartoon are much more successful. The story smugly illustrates how Cruella’s preference for spotted dogs is explained, where her name comes from or what the supervillain’s legendary car looks like in reality. You can forgive the film for some of its major flaws.
Conclusion: “Cruella” is a successful portrait of the “101 Dalmatians” villain, but it is only vaguely based on the cartoon and it is not always entirely clear whether it is a direct prequel or a stand-alone original. Story should be about. If you look at the film as the latter, you will see a fashion war between two designers that is not always entirely convincing in terms of tricks, but is enthralling in terms of staging and acting, in which the intoxicating costumes and hairstyles are just as impressive as the spectacular two-woman show of the two Emmas.
“Cruella” will be available as a premium VOD title on Disney+ from May 28th.