Disney’s best villain gets her own origin story in this fun, glamorous adventure.
It turns out that Cruella DeVil, the puppy and scene-stealing heart of One Hundred And One Dalmatians, wasn’t born bad – in fact, she was a cute little girl with black and white hair named Estella (played by Tipper Seifert-Cleveland as a kid, and Stone as an adult) who was just a bit naughty and different at school.
Following the death of her mother, Estella makes her way to London and teams up with fellow runaways Jasper and Horace, scraping together a living by way of light thievery until she gets a job at fashion mecca Liberty, followed by a position with The Baroness (Thompson), London’s most successful fashion designer.
Working for the toughest woman in town, however, leads to Estella’s transformation into the mysterious Cruella – a hot new designer known for making an entrance and stealing The Baroness’s thunder – and some gorgeous set pieces are delivered to the story as both The Baroness’s and Estella’s own secrets are revealed.
Set in the 1970s and backed with a greatest-hits-of-the-era soundtrack that will feel a bit obvious to oldies but is nonetheless a treat, this twist on the Dodie Smith novel is punk rock meets The Devil Wears Prada, as if it was imagined by Batman’s Tim Burton.
The clothes – including a grand gown that literally goes up in flames and another made from fashion scraps that trails away as Cruella departs on the back of a rubbish lorry – are jaw-dropping (Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan deserves another statue for her work here) and the set design, from The Baroness’s studio to her stately country home, is gorgeous.
At over two hours, this spectacle is a bit long, and some of the cast – especially Strong as The Baroness’s butler – are lost in the mix. But Stone is worth the price of admission as the tough, vulnerable and inventive Estella, as well as the tougher, meaner and deliciously bonkers Cruella, and she is matched scene for scene by Thompson’s icy Baroness, the two Emmas clearly having a ball together.
Little kids who have met Dalmatian-hating Cruella DeVil in the classic animated movie (or even the 1996 live action version with Glenn Close) may find this story a bit too grown-up. But older kids, adults and especially fashionistas of all ages should adore this stunning-looking film, and while it is available on Disney+ it is well worth seeking out on the big screen so you can truly appreciate its fabulousness.
Is Cruella suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
The movie is aimed at older kids (it is a 12A certficate in the UK) – younger ones may be upset when (and how) Estella’s mother dies, and be upset that Estella is an orphan.
There are times when Estella is in danger, including being held captive in a building on fire, that will be too scary for very young viewers.
(Side note – there are Dalmatians in the movie, but none of them are in any danger at any point).
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