Let’s get the obvious out of the way. We didn’t need a Cruella de Vil origin film. But we have one, so the question to ask is, “Was it successful?” In many ways, it was. The most apparent successes of the movie were the costumes and production design.
The costume designer, Jenny Beavan, and the production designer, Fiona Crombie, should quickly jump to the top of the shortlist of each of their categories for the Oscars. Each costume is a fun contradiction because they are period proper with an exaggerated twist. This choice feels appropriate because it gives the film a delightful kick. If you love innovative costume design, then you’ll have plenty to marvel at.
“Cruella’s” production design is also magnificent. With the same attention to detail, Crombie brings to life Cruella’s scuzzy apartment and The Baroness’ high society home and studio. If I ever revisit the film, I’ll have plenty to enjoy because the movie is a visual feast of design.
I appreciated the sets beyond Crombie’s creative eye because the cinematographer, Nicolas Karakatsanis, weaved his camera through them with kinetic energy. Adding to these sprightly shots is the presence of a little pup with an eyepatch.
While the dog is a delightful addition to shots, something that overstays its welcome in the same shots is the soundtrack. Now mind you, I don’t mean the score by Nicholas Britell. His work shines in this film, and the editor should have featured it more. Unfortunately, repetitive needle drops overshadow his score. I heard the Rolling Stones, Blondie, a Beatles cover, Bowie, Nina Simone, the Car Wash song, and countless others.
The choice to feature ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s hits could have been brilliant, but fewer songs would have gone a long way. No music gets to shine. The songs seem to be there because the editor thought the themes wouldn’t be communicated well enough without them.
That’s probably the case because there are fundamental issues with the screenplay. Now that “Cruella” has premiered, the lesson learned should be “less is more.” “Cruella” already has glamorous costumes, eye-popping production design, energetic cinematography, and a jukebox full of jams. It does not need three plots, too.
This movie is a caper, revenge thriller, and a coming-of-age tale. If that wasn’t enough, late in the film, a plot twist is revealed that made me roll my eyes so hard they are still in the back of my skull.
While I didn’t like “Cruella,” that doesn’t mean you won’t. Many of you will appreciate how much movie you get for your hard-earned dollars. And I must admit that “Cruella” is a movie with so much that goes right, but the screenwriters failed to land on a compelling story.
To be fair, the actors do absolutely everything they can to keep the screenplay afloat, but their performances aren’t enough. It will come as no surprise that Emma Stone and Emma Thompson are excellent in their roles, but I couldn’t help but wish they were giving these performances in a better film. Their talents are wasted. The actors playing Horace and Jasper are also immensely entertaining, mainly because they are way more developed than they were in “101 Dalmatians.”
At first, I despised this film and all it stood for in pop culture, but on second thought, it is simply an aggressively adequate movie. All the visual creativity is fantastic yet utterly wasted by a long screenplay. Word is there will be a sequel. I’m not opposed to that, but please, Disney, cut it down before you release it. No one needs a nearly two and a half hour Cruella de Vil movie.