Review: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson Shine In Disney’s ‘Cruella’

May 28, 2021, 5:30 AM | Updated: Jun 11, 2021, 6:56 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Disney has come up with some pretty magical and powerful adversaries to battle their heroes over the course of the past 100 years of moviemaking — the Evil Queen, Maleficent, Ursula, Gaston and Jafar are just a few. (You could maybe even make the argument for Ysma from “The Emperor’s New Groove.” She did use magic, after all.)   

Disney has also shown a great desire to create live-action versions of many of their animated hits from the past: “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Lady and the Tramp,”Dumbo,” and more recently, “Mulan.” 

Now, after the success of Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” and its sequel, Disney is going back to the vault to make another live-action movie telling the backstory of an animated villain. This time, it’Cruella De Vil.  

On the list of backstories nobody really was asking for, Cruella De Vil has got to be pretty high up there. First of all, which Cruella are we even talking about — the animated version from 1961 or the live-action movie with Glenn Close from 1996? Either way, most of what we know about her was that she had black and white hair, was a terrible driver, and she wanted to make coats of Dalmatian fur. Were you REALLY wondering why?  

And yet, low expectations going into a movie can often bring high enjoyment, and believe it or not, there are a bunch of things that you can and maybe even will enjoy in “Cruella.” 

This live-action tale is set in England in the 1950s and 1960s. A young girl with black and white hair named Estella just can’t seem to stay out of trouble in her prep school and gets kicked out. She eventually ends up in London, all by herself, and falls in with a couple of street thieves named Horace and Jasper. As time goes by, the three grow up and turn into Emma StonePaul Walter Hauser (“Cobra Kai,” “Richard Jewell”) and Joel Fry (“Game of Thrones,” “Yesterday”). Their trio forms a family-type bond as they watch out for each other and become quite good at conning and robbing people. But all the while, the talented Estella burns with a desire to be a fashion designer. Eventually, she gets a chance to work for — and be constantly berated by — the leading designer in London named the Baroness (played by Emma Thompson).  Eventually, Estella disguises herself as a mysterious avant-garde designer named, you guessed it, Cruella, and she begins a guerilla-type fashion war against the Baroness.  

Really, the strength of this movie lies in three things:   

  • First is the Emmas, both Stone and Thompson. These ladies just ham it up in the most delicious way. Emma Thompson chews up scenes with a wicked disdain for every character around her, while also hiding a brilliant, ruthless and cunning mind, behind a stunningly dressed exterior. Emma Stone, when in full Cruella mode, matches every one of Thompson’s sneers and cool insults in their battle of wits and designs.  
  • Second, the gorgeous color palettes used in the clothing and designs of late 1960’s London fashion. It forms a great and striking visual contrast to the black and white of some of the Baroness’s parties, as well as her pet Dalmatians (Oh, you didn’t think those particular dogs weren’t going to show up at some point, did you?).   
  • Third, owing largely to the time period of this movie, there is a killer soundtrack behind it, with music from the Doors, Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones, Blondie and a host of others.  

“Cruella” is rated PG-13 for some adult-ish plot points and a couple of violent moments, though it’s mostly harmless. It is a bit long as well, running at just over 2 hours and 15 minutes, which is almost a full hour longer than the original animated “101 Dalmatians” movie. Quite honestly, director Craig Gillespie could have made some cuts to shorten the length without sacrificing much in the way of story. The biggest issue that may bother viewers is the really odd relationship this movie has with the known characters from both versions of “101 Dalmatians.” There are lots of obvious nods to each movie (not surprising since they were all based on the same book anyway), but if you’re looking for direct continuity from “Cruella” to either of the two Dalmatian movies, you’ll have more questions at the end of this one than you did when you started.  

Therefore, I would suggest that you go into this movie to just enjoy it for what it is: Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, two great and talented actresses giving it their all in a hazy recreation of 1960’s London, a city of millions that somehow has hardly any people ever walking the streets. I still give “Cruella” three out of four stars based almost exclusively on the leading ladies’ performances, the visual smorgasbord the movie serves up, and the humorous moments — of which there are several. Don’t waste the effort trying to reconcile it with the other 101 Dalmatian movies in the series, just have a good time and try and spot the Easter eggs.  

“Cruella” opens in movie theaters and on Disney Plus Premier Access starting May 28th. To watch it at home, you’ll need to pay the $8/month subscription fee, then an additional one-time payment of $30. That might be the more affordable option if you have more than two or three kids, or you still feel uncomfortable going to the theater in person. As a bonus, you can watch it as many times as you’d like. 

Hopefully, you & your family found this review helpful!  Andy Farnsworth is the movie and pop culture guy for the “KSL 5 Today” morning news show and also hosts the “Fan Effect” podcast for KSL NewsRadio. 

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Movie Reviews

Javon "Wanna" Walton (left) as Sam Cleary and Sylvester Stallone (right) as Joe Smith in SAMARITAN,...

REVIEW: Stallone’s ‘Samaritan’ stops short of superhero movie success

Sylvester Stallone's latest movie SAMARITAN sees him as a garbage man that a teenage neighbor believes to be a superhero in hiding. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says there are some cool moments that action and superhero movie fans will enjoy, but overall thinks it's good that the movie is only streaming on Prime Video and not in theaters.
4 months ago
(L to R) Thira ‘Aum’ Chutikul as Commander Kiet, Popetorn ‘Two’ Soonthornyanaku as Dr Karn,...

REVIEW: ‘Thirteen Lives’ movie dramatically tells real rescue story of Thai soccer team from flooded cave

In THIRTEEN LIVES, a true story-based movie on Amazon Prime about the rescue of a teenage soccer team from a flooded cave in Thailand, director Ron Howard manages to pull off the feat of balancing truth with drama without turning it into a documentary. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says it was an emotionally-engaging movie that showcases the triumph of human effort and spirit when we work together to solve a problem.
4 months ago
(L to R) B.J. Novak as Ben Manalowitz and Boyd Holbrook as Ty Shaw in VENGEANCE, directed and writt...

REVIEW: Dark comedy ‘Vengeance’ goes deeper than easy stereotypes for laughs in murder mystery movie

The death of a one-time fling draws B.J. Novak's writer/podcaster character Ben to West Texas to investigate and hopefully turn the story into a career-making podcast in Focus Features' VENGEANCE. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says this dark comedy has some great twists and very funny moments, while also going beyond stereotypes to create real characters.
4 months ago
Michael Cera as “Hank” and Samuel L. Jackson as “Jimbo” in Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank...

REVIEW: ‘Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank’ remakes an adult comedy classic into an animated movie for modern-day kids

A kids animated movie based on the irreverent 1970's film BLAZING SADDLES? That's exactly what PAWS OF FURY: THE LEGEND OF HANK is, right down to having Mel Brooks voice a character. A friendly dog ventures to the land of cats to become a samurai, and finds himself protecting a village that doesn't even want him there. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says its got a great voice cast but keeping your expectations for the movie in check will help you enjoy it more.
5 months ago
The Gray Man (2022) Ryan Gosling as Six. Cr. Stanislav Honzik/Netflix © 2022...

REVIEW: ‘The Gray Man’ is a violent but fast-paced throwback to action/spy movies of the past, with Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling chasing each other around the globe

The new action thriller movie THE GRAY MAN, from AVENGERS ENDGAME directors Joe and Anthony Russo, sees Chris Evans' sadistic mercenary chasing Ryan Gosling's on-the-run CIA agent all around the globe to get back some stolen information. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says it's a love letter to spy and action movies of the past, and is very entertaining at times, though it is also quite violent.
5 months ago
(L-R): Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Marvel Studios' THOR: LOVE AND...

REVIEW: Portman, Bale help make ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ more than just another goofy adventure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER, the 29th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sees Chris Hemsworth's Thor have to deal with his ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) using his formerly-destroyed mystical hammer and possessing his same power while trying to stop a villain who can kill gods. KSL's Andy Farnsworth says it's another goofy take on the character that has some very funny moments, but may not be to everyone's tastes.
5 months ago

Sponsored Articles

notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Review: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson Shine In Disney’s ‘Cruella’