Disney’s Cruella puts a dark spin on a beloved classic


Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Still from the movie Cruella

Disney ventures outside of its typical feel-good fairytale and plunges into a darker narrative with its latest release of Cruella, a live-action spinoff of the classic 101 Dalmatians. Starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, alongside a noteworthy set and breathtaking costumes, the entertainment factor of director Craig Gillespie’s film hides a relatively disorganized plotline.

Estella (Tippert Seifert-Cleveland) is a mere child when she witnesses her mother’s death at a party and shoulders the blame for the incident throughout her adolescence. An orphan, Estella keeps herself afloat through planned robberies with her friends Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry), all the while continuing to chase her lifelong dream of becoming a fashion designer. Her life begins to turn around when she lands a job at a prestigious fashion department store, which eventually grants her the coveted opportunity to work for the Baroness (Emma Thompson). However, relations with her new boss quickly turn sour, as Estella’s quest to reclaim possession of a family heirloom that the Baroness wears upon her neck escalates into a battle between the Baroness, Estella and her alter-ego, the infamous Cruella de Vil. As she uncovers dark secrets, Estella begins to question her own identity, and a sinister element develops with the emergence of evil intentions behind the actions of both Cruella and the Baroness. 

Despite its thrilling storyline, certain components of the plot feel unnecessary and add confusion to the narrative. Estella’s drastic personality change occurs overnight and the stark contrast between her character and that of her alter-ego, Cruella, as well as Cruella’s dramatic speech patterns, feel forced. Much of the film’s action is illogical; over-the-top fashion battles between Cruella and the Baroness, as well as the robberies executed by Jasper and Horace, are impossibly extravagant stunts. 

However, Disney is certainly not known for its realism, and the film does not fall short in its ability to keep the audience engaged despite its 134-minute run time. Cruella’s whimsical storyline and cinematography serve to maintain Disney’s charm in an otherwise darker film. Horace provides consistent comic relief, and an energetic soundtrack featuring the Bee Gees and Queen will please adult viewers. 

Suspenseful action scenes are complemented by incredible sets, costumes, makeup and editing. Despite the darker undertones of this Disney project, the element of enchantment is as present as ever. The viewer who is able to harness their sense of imagination, and enjoys a modern twist on older classics, will love this film.