Critics are as divided over ‘Cruella’ as the protagonist’s iconic black and white hair.
For some, the campy, fashion-fueled manic fever dream of a movie is a joy. For others, it’s a confused, loud mess that doesn’t quite justify the cost of a movie ticket or the $30 Disney+ Premiere Access fee.
“Cruella” follows the life of Estella, a curious, rambunctious and creative young girl who doesn’t quite fit into the world. Her mother warns her not to let the “Cruella” side of her personality lead her, but it lurks and arrives in full force ten years later.
After tragedy leaves Estella alone on the streets of London, the young girl teams up with two other street boys, Jasper and Horace, to survive in the world through pickpocketing and petty theft.
Ten years later, the trio are still working together, but Estella’s dream to become a fashion designer is not gone. She is played by a fiercely devoted Emma Stone, who embodies the villain “One Hundred and One Dalmatians”, mimicking her iconic laugh and crazy ride with joy.
By a twist of fate, Estella lands a job with a legendary designer known as the Baroness, who is played horribly by Emma Thompson. The two characters clash, causing Estella to embrace her Cruella side and turn into a ruthless competitor to the Baroness.
As of Thursday afternoon, “Cruella” has a 72% Fresh rating on the review site Rotten Tomatoes out of 156 reviews.
Here’s what critics thought of “Cruella” ahead of its debut in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere Access on Friday:
“Imagine ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ on steroids, set in 1970s London, with Anne Hathaway’s character vindictive instead of sweet. Sounds pretty good, right?” Moira Macdonald wrote in her review of “Cruella” for The Seattle Times.
Macdonald praised the film for its wild imagination and the chemistry between Stone and Thompson, who spend most of the film at odds with each other.
She called Stone’s “dark syrup” British accent “somewhat wild and wickedly clever,” a reflection of the Baroness’ drawling and scathing retort.
“‘Cruella’ is an absolute thrill, and if you’ve been looking for a reason to get back to the cinema, here it is,” Macdonald wrote.
“‘Cruella’ is a tame revenge story among a string of recent retaliation tales, including ‘Joker’ and ‘Promising Young Woman’.
“Cruella’s transboundary energies are kept within the bounds of social acceptability and the PG-13 rating,” AO Scott wrote in his review of the film for The New York Times. “Her motive is revenge, and her methods include fraud, theft and deceit, but the closest she comes to evil is the occasional selfish insensitivity to her friends. She is not a monster. She is an artist and her theatrically outrageous misbehavior is a sign of her uncompromising creativity.”
Scott commented that the film is “easy enough to watch, but hard to care about much.”
Set in the 1970s, “Cruella” draws heavily on the punk world, drawing inspiration from the period for its fashion and music. For some, the musical cues, including “Sympathy for the Devil,” were a bit too on the nose, but others found the playlist of time-bound songs a fitting tribute to the time period.
“There are 37 pop tunes scattered throughout ‘Cruella,’ culminating in the most obvious song you can think of for a character whose last name is de Vil and for whom we feel sympathy,” said Katie Rife in her review of the film. for AV Club.
“The soundtrack includes The Zombies, Nancy Sinatra, David Bowie, The Clash, ELO, Rose Royce, Blondie, Doris Day, Suzi Quatro, Nina Simone and Deep Purple, all tastefully chosen but not particularly revealing,” she wrote. . “Many of these songs have been used in other movies, for example, and a few are deep enough to spark a lot of excitement among adult music lovers.”
“We’re not even halfway through the story of Disney villain ‘Cruella’ when so much is clear: If this movie does NOT win an Academy Awards for Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Costume Design, I can’t wait to see what happens next. Richard Roeper wrote in his review of the film for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Roeper is one of several film critics who discussed the film’s exquisite costumes in his review of Disney’s latest live-action remake. He called the film a “visual feast.”
“Reynolds Woodcock from ‘The Phantom Thread’ would pass out from the sheer overwhelming amount of fashion design scenes, fashion design discussion, more fashion design — and pop-up fashion events that take place during traditional fashion events,” he wrote. “This is a VERY fashionable movie.”
disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.