The first thing I will tell you about the marvelous new Disney film, “Cruella,” is that it is more for adults than kids. This a punk rock concert with a fierce kick, dominated by show-stopping performances and tunes. The old school soundtrack, stuffed with classics and delicious covers of classics, will keep your feet tapping the floor as the film sweeps you off your feet.
The second thing I can inform you of is that two Emmas are much better than one, because this tantalizing cinematic experience gives Emma Stone her best role in years (SO MUCH better than the overrated “La La Land”) and Emma Thompson the kind of role that seasoned performers dream about. Playing fashion goddess nemesis in a superbly-crafted world of dreamers and runaways, these two actresses are in the penthouse of their game here.
Believe me, this isn’t your grandpa’s Disney flick. It’s full-bodied, well-written, and prides itself on being the black sheep of a wildly popular studio. If “Devil Wears Prada” and “Joker” had a baby in Disney’s bed, this would be the result. I laughed, cried, and laughed some more as Cruella (Stone) and her besties (the excellent Paul Walter Hauser and the endearing Joel Fry) pull off one heist/job after another, all the while sliding under the nose of The Baroness (Thompson) and her chief assistant (Mark Strong).
“What’s the angle?” Hauser’s Horace repeatedly asks this throughout the film, and you could say that Disney’s angle was to broaden their horizons a bit without abandoning their trademark magic. Everything here runs smooth and fast, including the wit exchanged between our heroine and co-stars, including the indelible John McCrea. Don’t worry too much about the two hour-plus running time, because you’ll be too busy humming the tunes to notice the extra-long theater stay. When it comes to running times and viability, all I ask as a film addict is to use the time wisely.
“Cruella” doesn’t waste a second of our time. Would you rather the plot move unbearably fast and the actors have their words and actions rushed? I think not. This is a lively bottle of wine that needs to be opened and allowed to breathe a little. The costume and production design are enchanting, sure to land on Oscar’s short list later this year. In creating a vicious yet intoxicating aesthetic for our palettes to wrestle with, director Craig Gillespie and screenwriters Dana Fox and Tom McNamara keep the visuals dazzling and the plot twists comfortably numb to our senses.
“Cruella” didn’t feel like a typical Disney experience, and that’s a very good thing. I’ve long wondered if the billion dollar behemoth of a studio could break bad even a little, and it finally happened! Stone’s work can’t be talked about enough. She dominates a film with an impeccable cast and look, reminding us that she is just getting warmed up in the Hollywood arena of performance. Seeing her volley with Thompson, each actress tossing juicy daggers at the other, is a sight to behold and remember. Tell a friend to see this movie. No Dalmatians were harmed… I think.