Review: Cruella

A Dramatic Start To The 101 Dalmations Cinematic Universe©

By Patrick Crown-Milliss

Disney’s latest live-action blockbuster, Cruella, is the prequel no one asked for, in fact it's the one no one in their right mind would even think of. Why would you want to write the back-story to a psychopathic dog-murderer? Who on earth thought that would be a good idea? 

The reality is that you either haven’t seen 101 Dalmatians, or if you have you can hardly remember it. I highly doubt there are many 101 Dalmatians superfans out there that stayed up for the 12 am release of this movie. But for those of us that didn’t bat an eye when this movie was announced, it’s a surprise to know it’s worth giving our undivided attention.

Cruella shows the transformation of young, sweet and innocent Estella (Emma Stone) into the classic Disney villain Cruella De Vil. Except Estella isn’t very young and sweet, in fact she’s kind of an asshole at times, but in that “I’m not gonna take your shit” kind of way that makes her a badass. She grows up alongside two backstreet London thieves Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), whose IQ’s must be about 160 given how successful all their plots, schemes, and antics are. They lead the way for Estella to get a job at a high-end London fashion store and eventually meet ‘The Baroness’ (Emma Thompson). This is where the movie really begins to shine.

I don’t think I’ve ever particularly noticed costume design in a movie before, but here it’s impossible not to. It’s unsurprising a movie about fashion designers would have great costumes, but ‘great’ doesn’t even begin to describe the feelings of insanity, extravagance and awe that seeing these dresses give you. It’s not the typical runway models you envision wearing ‘art as fashion’ where they wear something looking more like a Picasso painting than a dress. The designs here have meaning. They’re creative, bold and while sometimes ridiculous still leave you with a sense of blissful shock. And Emma Stone. In those dresses. Just wow. I think I found my new celebrity crush. The whole movie could be just a runway show of Emma in all her different outfits and it would still be worth watching.

But that’s just the costumes. The scenes are what make this movie a blockbuster. Every cent of that $100 million budget is well spent to create bombastic balls with hundreds of people wearing clothes worth more than your entire bank account, and fashion wars that apparently need to send their messages in the most expensive way possible. The extraordinary grandness of the high-end fashion life is exemplified in this film's stunning aesthetic, I couldn’t help myself from literally gasping at times. Each scene was perfectly accompanied by the movie's soundtrack, which set the right vibe at the right time, creating an immersive atmosphere that made for an amazing watching experience.

The characters are what really make a movie though. The film paces Estella’s development in a way that feels natural, it gives time to establish and develop her relationships as well as detail the experiences that would ultimately transform her into Cruella. What is really interesting though is the mentor-student relationship between Estella and The Baroness. The Baroness is pure evil. Exactly what she needs to be. She makes no room for love or sympathy, has a moral compass that points south and yet still feels reasonable. She doesn’t feel fake or overdone and creates a character you can hate but still respect, allowing you to still sympathise with an ever-increasingly antagonistic protagonist. Their constantly evolving and transforming relationship keeps you glued to the story like a dalmatian to its master.

The film keeps a fast-pace to fit everything in it’s only 2 hour and 13 minute runtime, but it doesn’t feel like it glosses over anything. There’s constant fun and interesting twists that are always reminding you how much of a badass Estella is, and how cool her friends are. I guess if you really care about continuity though this could be a fault of the movie, it’s questionable how Cruella the adorable dog lover could become Cruella the nicotine fiend who stops at nothing to skin a bunch of innocent puppies. You could say they made her too likable in this movie, and she didn’t live up to the pure evil she eventually becomes. But hey, they’re making a Cruella 2, so keep your hopes up.

You can obviously tell I loved watching this movie. Maybe it doesn't live up to the cinematic universe hype of Marvel, or the deep meaning of Forrest Gump (Editor's Note: Forrest Gump isn't that deep but ok), but it’s a fun and engaging movie that honestly surprised me. It may not be Oscar-worthy, but if you’re looking to be wowed by amazing visuals, be astonished by awesomely creative schemes, and be moved by compelling character relationships then this movie is for you. 

Cruella’s an 8.5/10 on the Fun Vibes Meter

Writers Bio: Patrick Crown-Milliss is a UNSW student studying Law and PPE. He loves experiencing what people make in the creative world of self-expression and inspiration, whether that be in music, paintings, films, books, or any other medium. He’s not afraid to be the life of the party and is always happy to have a deep convo, but he does listen to Olivia Rodrigo, which has led many people to question his mental health.

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