Cruella ★★½

"They say there are five stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Well, I'd like to add one more... revenge."

Cruella may be the best and worst Disney live-action film of the year so far. I am beyond baffled how Cruella came to be. It's extremely dumb as hell, but at the same time... it's also a lot of fun???

Words can't express how wildly conflicted I feel over this film. Some of the storytelling aimed at making the iconic villain Cruella de Vil more humane leads to some unbelievably dumb shit, an unbelievable amount of plot holes and admittedly well-executed, but nevertheless predictable, plot twists. It is perhaps too weird to see that Cruella, a symbol of evil and capitalism, would also be like a punk rebel. The insanity of Cruella leads me to believe the writers were aware of how stupid the story was and decided to revel in that, for better or worse effect.

It is hilarious to think about how Disney gave Cruella a $100+ million budget. I'd like to think they took one quick look at the concept and, wanting to make more remakes and reboots, unconsciously said to Gillespie and everyone else involved, "here's 200 million bucks we are happy to give away, now go ahead and make your film, but remember to humanise Cruella and feel free to give the film a 'yass queen SLAY those CGI dalmatians' mindset if you want to." As soon as Craig Gillespie was hired to direct Cruella, he took advantage of the budget to bring his ridiculous but nevertheless spectacular vision of Cruella to life, and it does contribute to the fun factor big time.

I can see Cruella being viewed as a guilty pleasure and a cult classic for many people. Because if you're not going to make a genuinely good film, you may as well make it fun and that's what Gillespie does in his direction, which feels oddly unique for a Disney film. The needle drop covers sound great but feel random, the costume designs are spectacular albeit disappointing on the symbolic side, the setting is aesthetically pleasing but also anachronistic and the production values are nothing short of marvellous. But Cruella is carried by the immensely playful and wicked performances by Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, and it's what makes the film watchable from start to finish.

But as visually pleasing as Cruella gets, thanks to Nicolas Karakatsanis's cinematography, and despite the large fun factor, I just can't get behind the love for the film and the writing is just one major problem overall. Cruella sometimes tries too hard to deliver its jokesm making the delivery feel forced, and it suffers from various tonal inconsistencies, veering from outright campy to severely dark. While the plot chooses to be stupid and inadvertently bring into question the necessity of giving Cruella an origin story, it also feels largely bloated due to the 134-minute runtime, and since the pacing is too uneven for its own good, Cruella runs out of steam. And even with the large budget, the presentation is sometimes soiled by questionable stylistic decisions and terrible CGI.

Cruella may be lots of fun but that doesn't excuse most of its flaws. It's becoming clear Gillespie and the writers were in on making this film an entertaining joke, but it seems they got too carried away in the process and what's left is an enjoyable mess that's still better than the usual Disney live-action garbage.

🎃🏳️‍🌈 Nicholas (Nic) 🏳️‍🌈🎃 liked these reviews