Disney’s Cruella: Technicolor Noir
Disney best “cartoon” in years, the Emmas deliver in 101 Dalmations prequel…
The outstanding film Alive and Kicking — a documentary about swing dancing and its unique culture and history — features a quote that I repeat to myself several times a year:
The best cartoon wins…”
The line speaks volumes about swing and how the music and humor combine with acrobatics and, well, actual dancing to create something memorable – and fun.
That’s what I think we have in Cruella.
Devilish fun to be had…
If you expect to walk in and see The Joker or some kind of “Godfather” of villainy flick; if you are really wanting to see a new take on The Devil Wears Prada, you’re going to be disappointed. There is nothing that important going on here (besides good storytelling, some genre-bending set pieces, and a bonified attention-grabbing twist that will surprise the heck out of many).
Of course, I’d be shocked if it were up for serious Oscar consideration for anything other than set design or costuming (both of which are gorgeous). However, just like the best swing dance teams, the clothes, the twists, acrobatics, and yes the artistry necessary to complete Cruella makes the whole thing work.
The boilerplate plot summary reads:
Cruella,” which is set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, follows a young grifter named Estella, a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs. She befriends a pair of young thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they are able to build a life for themselves on the London streets. One day, Estella’s flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness von Hellman, a fashion legend who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute… But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable, and revenge-bent Cruella.
I mean, that is an oversimplification of what turns out to be a terribly noir-looking film (albeit in technicolor) with a whole lot of thrills and a killer soundtrack. And, I found myself laughing out loud several times especially when Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser were on-screen.
Speaking of the soundtrack, while Disney no doubt looked to reboot their way into another big take at the box-office, the formula here is a less pure prequel or Nutrasweet nostalgia-fest and is much more akin to the artistic flair and pathos imbued into Disney’s golden age of animation. As Perri Nemiroff — my favorite reviewer — said in her look at the movie, everyone here looks like they are putting everything into their work, and having fun.
Emma Stone (Cruella), Emma Thompson (The Baroness), and Mark Strong (The Valet) are excellent. While Hauser (Horace), Fry (Jasper), and John McCrea (Artie) are often stealing scenes. Moreover, all of the actors and elements (and pets) work together to build a solid summer-starting flick, a fun movie.
Never mind that Cruella may be the best of Disney’s live-action reboots, after a year (or two) like we’ve had, fun is really all we need.
Be sure to stay for the post-credit scene and then run home to watch the Disney animated classic (and perhaps Cruella itself on Disney Plus Premiere Access). Then, let us know what you thought in the comments below.
Feature Image: Disney
A note to parents: There is very little to worry about here and the PG-13 speaks to the noirish plot and the peril into which our main characters (and their pets) are put. That said, take the PG-13 seriously and if your kids are still strictly watching the animated Disney classics, I wouldn’t start their foray into more contemporary fare with Cruella.