Emma Stone stars as the title role in Disney’s Cruella, a live-action origin story of the famous villain from the studio’s animated classic 101 Dalmatians.
The Production: 3.5/5
Young Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) was born with half-white and half-black hair parted down the middle, making her a target for school bullies. After being expelled for acting out against her antagonizers, her mother Catherine (Emily Beecham) decides they would be better off living in London, but she must first make a stop along the way at a fashion show party at a large estate on the outskirts of London. Estella defies orders to stay in the car, and instead enters the party, finally knowing what she wants to be – a fashion designer. But Estella and her dog get into trouble, being chased by three dalmatians who eventually seemingly attach Catherine while talking to the party’s host, knocking her off a cliff and to her imminent death. Shocked with guilt, Estella escapes and makes her way to London, where she meets up with two orphan thieves living on their own, Jasper (Ziggy Gardner) and Horace (Joseph MacDonald), who take her in and show her the ropes. Ten years later, Estella (Emma Stone), Jasper (Joel Fry), and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) are still pulling off low-level heists and cons with Estella providing most of the costumes. Knowing what Estella wants to be doing with her life the most, Jasper arranges for her to find employment at a department store, which comically leads to fashion designer Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) offering her a job on her design team. Estella soon learns that the Baroness no longer has any original ideas, and instead takes full credit for everything her team comes up with. The movie switches gears, almost to a cross between Devil Wears Prada and a heist film, as Estella quickly learns part of the story of her mother’s death, becoming Cruella and with the help of Jasper and Horace, the three attempt to take the Baroness down. As more is revealed, the story evolves even further into a story of revenge and justice.
In the end, I have rather mixed feelings about Cruella. The performances are exceptional; Emma Stone and Emma Thompson are great on the screen together, and Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser make a great team as the friends who try to help Estella but end up being verbally abused by her alter ego Cruella. The film’s design, cinematography, and music also help make the film enjoyable. But I found the film to be overly dark for a Disney film, and its ties to the original 101 Dalmatians to be strained. Cruella never makes that eventual jump to the iconic villain from the classic animated feature (I’m guessing the studio is saving that for the sequel). Instead, it tells the story of how she met her two eventual henchman and obtained her wealth and notoriety. And the mid-credits scene has left me scratching my head, wondering what exactly the studio was thinking behind that.
3D Rating: NA
Cruella was captured digitally at 3.4K and 6.5K resolutions on Arri Alexa 65 and Mini cameras, completed as a 4K digital intermediate in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Vision high dynamic range for its premium theatrical engagements. Disney’s HEVC-encoded 2016p transfer for this UHD disc release retains the film’s theatrical aspect ratio and instead uses HDR10 high dynamic range. Detail is exceptional, highlighting the fabric textures in costumes especially. Colors are muted yet still manage to pop when they need to (particularly reds). This is not an exceptionally bright transfer, though, so some displays with weaker backlighting may struggle with some of the more darkly lit sequences.
Cruella comes with a default Dolby Atmos track on the UHD disc which has a bit more depth than the 7.1 DTS-HD MA track found on the included Blu-ray. While there isn’t a whole lot of overhead activity other than music extensions and atmospherics, sounds do move around the room rather seamlessly. The late 1960s and early 1970s rock songs sound terrific, helping to provide a more immersive experience in the way thewy have been mixed within the soundtrack. LFE is decent, not exactly anemic, but never really getting a chance to flex any muscles (this is a Disney mix).
Special Features: 3.5/5
The UHD disc has no special features whatsoever, but there is a nice mix of extras on the included Blu-ray disc.
The Two Emmas (1080p; 10:46): A look at the two leading ladies.
The Sidekick Angle (1080p; 5:30): A look at Jasper and Horace.
Cruella Couture (1080p; 9:43): A look at the film’s costume design.
The World of Cruella (1080p; 6:25): A look at the film’s production design.
New Dogs… Old Tricks (1080p; 6:04): A look at the animal actors in the film.
Cruella 101 (1080p; 3:35): A look at the many Easter Eggs from the film.
Bloopers (1080p; 1:57)
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 1:54): Two scenes are included – Hotel Heist Hallway and Baroness Rejects Design Sketches.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on Movies Anywhere. At the time of this review, the code included with my copy wanted to redeem as HD.
Cruella is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a fun caper/revenge story with great performances and production design, but at times is way too dark and disturbing for the kids.
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