Cruella movie review: Emma Stone tries, but misses the mark-Entertainment News

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Cruella is Disney’s latest efforts to reintroduce old characters, and contemporise them for the new, younger generation of moviegoers. It’s not a memorable one, that’s for sure.

The first thing that struck me in Cruella was Emma Stone’s cartoonish accent. In an interview, she said she assumed a Mid-Atlantic accent – one commonly seen in old Hollywood movies, that’s neither American nor British – for the role. But Stone’s attempt simply does not yield the outcome she and the makers had expected. It’s a distraction from completely enjoying the character. The accent in question has a rather cool history, but that’s not really the focal point here.

Cruella movie review Emma Stone tries but misses the mark

Emma Stone as Estella. Disney

Cruella, directed by Craig Gillespie, is the origin story of the skunk-haired classic Disney villainess from 101 Dalmations, played by Glenn Close (who is credited as executive producer). Close as Cruella De Vil was hammy, incredibly terrifying, and delightfully diabolical. The character was faithful to the original animated film, unlike this one that takes some revisionist liberties, tries to take the bitter edge off of Cruella by humanising her, and directs the audience to the reasons why she switched to the dark side.

The story begins with a flashback. We meet a young Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland), who dreams of making it big as a fashion designer. As a child, she always stands out in the crowd, because of her differently coloured hair and bullish, outspoken nature. Estella is often bullied, but never buckles down to the horrible kids who just couldn’t get themselves to accept her.

Eventually her mother Catherine (Emily Beecham), who only wants Estella to fulfil her passion, pulls her out of school and decides to move to London. In typical, heartbreaking Disney fashion (Bambi, The Lion King), Catherine dies in a freak accident involving ferocious Dalmatians, leaving the 12-year-old Estella orphaned.

Cruella movie review Emma Stone tries but misses the mark

Paul Walter Hauser, Emma Stone and Joel Fry in Cruella. Twitter

Then begins the real adventure; Estella quickly adapts to her circumstances, befriends two street urchins Jasper (Ziggy Gardner then Joel Fry) and Horace (Joseph MacDonald then Paul Walter Hauser). In their 20s the three reside in a derelict building, and make ends meet by pickpocketing and petty thefts. Estella never forgets her designing dream, and makes the most immaculate disguises for their escapades.

Fry and Hauser, who later become Cruella’s trusty henchmen, provide the requisite comic relief in an otherwise humourless story, but also serve as a reminder of the goodness she might just leave behind. Hauser’s Horace particularly stands out throughout the film, and will remain the only memorable character for me. Him and Artie, the David Bowie-d thrift shop owner, whom Cruella recruits to further her boisterous sartorial plans.

Cruella movie review Emma Stone tries but misses the mark

Emma Thompson. Disney

One day Estella lands a job at London’s high-end fashion store, a janitorial position that she’s keen to upturn into a fashion one. Days go by, her manager ignores her pleas and requests. So Estella finally breaks. She rebels, and redoes the store’s display that gets her noticed by the city’s most sought-after couturier, The Baronness (Emma Thompson). The Baronness, emanating strong Miranda Priestly energy, runs her workshop with an invisible whip. Thompson superbly plays this vile, haughty and selfish character, whose word is always the law for those who work under her. Initially, Estella reveres the Baronness, then establishes herself as a rival on equal grounds after she makes a nasty discovery.

Cruella movie review Emma Stone tries but misses the mark

A still from Cruella. Disney

Set in the 1970s, Cruella recalls the city at the peak of the punk rock movement that influenced not just music, but also fashion. The clothes, loud, brash, defiant, and inventive are masterpieces – the pièce de résistance. The late Alexander McQueen seems to be the most heavily referenced here; a sequence also gives the nod to the British designer’s 2001 runway show. I’m not a fashion savant, quite the opposite, but even I can recognise the absolute beauty and the painstaking effort that must have gone into creating these over-the-top pieces.

Besides the cringey accent, Stone does not make for a very convincing Cruella De Vil. I wanted to feel excited for Estella, when she nabbed the chance to work with the Baroness; I wanted to feel her frustration when she was stuck in a dead-end job at the Liberty of London; and when she was on this deranged revenge spree, but Stone’s watery performance never fully realises any of these emotions.

The movie is a little over two hours; two hours too long. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot to grasp onto, and if you have a short attention span, or if you’re watching this movie with a child, it will be a little tough to keep up. The writers, a little too impassioned in their endeavour to give Cruella a colourful backstory, have overstuffed the narrative. The story unfolds similarly to Joker, and will even remind you of The Devil Wears Prada — no surprises there, one of co-writers Aline Brosh McKenna wrote the 2006 comedy-drama.

Cruella is Disney’s latest efforts to reintroduce old characters, and contemporise them for the new, younger generation of moviegoers. It’s not a memorable one, that’s for sure.

Rating: 3 (out of 5)

Cruella is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. Watch the trailer here —

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