Cruella (2021)

Today I’m beginning a more refined format towards giving reviews.  Let us begin.

Would I recommend Cruella?  Yes, if you have seen 101 Dalmatians and enjoyed it.  And yes if you keep in mind that this is a central character rather than a protagonist.  Meaning, even though she is the main character, she is still a villain in an overall larger narrative.  What makes us route for her though, is the fact that she is the lesser of two evils (the other being Baroness von Hellman, played by Emma Thompson), and allows herself to be on equal ground around her family until her plans become too exciting and the others can’t keep up.  Her family being Jasper and Horace, played by Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser respectively, and their dogs.  

The acting is excellent, especially from the two Emmas, Stone and Thompson, who have great chemistry on screen when they try to out-do each other as the ultimate, unloving narcissist.  Jasper and Horace are presented as being a lot less bumbling and evil when compared to their animated counterparts.  But we keep in mind, a lot possibly happens to the trio between these two films that turn them into who we know today.

The characters are charismatic and likeable, even in their antagonising and evidently human moments.  Cruella herself is intriguing because we do wonder which side of her is real: Estella the ambitious survivalist or Cruella the giant killer (metaphorically speaking).  We know later what kind of character she becomes in the animated feature, but it is good to see what can be described as a “more innocent time” in her story. Throughout the movie, we also see Roger and Anita Radcliffe, the owners of what would eventually be the one hundred and one dalmatians. Roger’s surname is Dearly, while Anita’s is Darling. Roger is the Baroness’s lawyer while Anita is Cruella’s childhood friend from primary school, who becomes the columnist that elevates Cruella’s exposure within the press. Roger’s role is small, but Anita’s is pivotal to the plot. I can’t say much about Kayvan Novak as Roger as I barely remember him on screen, but Kirby Howell-Baptiste was great as Anita.

The story is a tale of revenge with a heist plot or two mixed in.  We see a lot of scenes that could be inspired by Oceans Eleven or One Crew over the Crewcoo’s Morty.  In its pacing, it hits all of the marks.  At times we can feel like we have gone off-track, and some of the quieter moments have more telling than showing.  But this doesn’t take away that it is a good journey.

The Artistic depiction of 1970s London is excellent, with fabulous costume and interior design and pinch of post-modernism to keep it fresh.  At times the CGI can be a bit off and obvious.  Especially in any scenes involving the ocean.  The dogs are also a mixture of real and CGI, and it can be clear which ones are which, but they are still well done.  The Cinematography is absolutely fantastic, with the swooping single shots going through the scenes like a fairy with a smartphone.  It is wonderfully presented this way.

The music is among the best soundtracks you could ever ask for, with each scene more or less having it own song.  Look at the full list sometime:  Nancy Sinatra’s These Boots are Made for Walking (with what looks like a brief throwback to Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket), Time Of The Season by The Zombies, Queen, Blondie, The Clash, Ike & Tina Turner, Black Sabbath, the list goes on.  It is a fantastic playlist.

This was my first time seeing a film in the cinema since before the Pandemic began – and you know what?  It was a good starting point.

Acting: ****

Characters: ****

Story: ****

Art: *****

Special Effects/CGI: ****

Music: *****

Cinematography: *****

Overall: ****1/2

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