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Cruella First Reviews: Emmas Stone and Thompson and Their Immaculate Costumes Light Up the Screen

Early reviews for the Disney villain's origin story say the punk-rock reimagining is creative, fun, and visually striking, even if it's a tad long.

by | May 26, 2021 | Comments

Who needs one hundred and one Dalmatians when you can have one-on-one Emmas? Disney’s latest live-action reimagining, Cruella, takes us back to the origin of its titular villain, now portrayed by Emma Stone as a newcomer in the fashion world clashing with an evil nemesis, played by Emma Thompson. The first reviews of the feature, which heads to theaters and Disney+ (for an extra charge) this weekend, mostly highlight the shared scene-chewing of the two Oscar-winning actresses as well as the costumes they parade on screen. Whether this One Hundred and One Dalmatians prequel is a great movie overall, however, is up for debate.

Here’s what critics are saying about Cruella:


Is Cruella a surprise success?

It just exceeded all of my expectations.
– Sharronda Williams, Pay or Wait

Cruella upends expectations to demonstrate that origin stories can be roundly entertaining.
– Peter Martin, ScreenAnarchy

Whatever movie you’re expecting from Cruella, you’d be wrong.
– Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

The biggest surprise of 2021… Craig Gillespie’s Cruella turns any preconceived notions on their head.
– Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com


Does it feel like other Disney fare?

The biggest compliment anyone could give Cruella is that it doesn’t have any feel or semblance of a Disney movie.
Nate Adams, The Only Critic

A bold departure for Disney that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen from them before.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

You have to remind yourself that you’re that you’re watching a Disney film.
Sharronda Williams, Pay or Wait

Parents of younger kids may be shocked that such a film carries the Disney imprint.
Peter Debruge, Variety

You get the feeling it’s geared as much towards Disney’s not insignificant adult fanbase as it is to a younger crowd.
Patrick Cremona, Radio Times

Whether its dark-but-Disney strangeness intrigues or repels, there’s often something to love and loathe in equal measure.
Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine

Slightly darker than your standard Disney fare…the film feels less like a satisfying character drama than a work of corporate rebranding.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush


Emma Stone in Cruella

(Photo by ©2021 Disney Enterprises Inc.)

How does it compare to the other live-action reimaginings?

What Cruella is not — to the immense relief of many, I’m sure — is another Maleficent… Cruella proves ingeniously creative in its reimagining of the underlying IP.
Peter Debruge, Variety

A movie that rivals the likes of Aladdin and The Jungle Book.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

The studio just cannot crack the code in recapturing the magic that made the animated originals so endearing. Add Cruella, the newest revamp of their rogues gallery to the list of failures.
Kyle Pinion, ScreenRex


Will fans of the original film enjoy this?

There are several simple nods to the original story and 101 Dalmatians that will make most fans smile to themselves when they catch them.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Rather than shoehorning in a bunch of forced moments – “Oh, so that’s why she hates Dalmatians”… this take very much makes her a complex character in her own right.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

Disney purists may be put off by the rewriting of canon.
Sean P. Means, The Movie Cricket

Any attempt to square the events of this film with the animated canon quickly falls apart… You’re better off just assuming that Cruella occurs in an alternate timeline.
Brent Hankins, The Lamplight Review

There’s no suggestion she’d ever consider such cruelty… As an actual prequel, it’s a tick-infested mutt of a movie.
Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

The manner in which the script tries to bend itself away from and around Cruella’s specific Dalmatian-centric animal cruelty future requires some Cirque du Soleil-esque flexibility.
Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness


Emma Stone in Cruella

(Photo by ©2021 Disney Enterprises Inc.)

How is the writing?

Incredibly good and sincerely humorous.
Peter Martin, ScreenAnarchy

Dana Fox and Tony McNamara’s Cruella screenplay plays with your expectations in clever, non-murderous ways.
Brian Truitt, USA Today

Writers Dana Fox and Tony McNamara boldly crafted a narrative that has the energy of shows like Revenge and Ugly Betty… I applaud it for actually taking risks in its story, adding dimension to this once simple, yet iconic, villain.
Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

One of the joys of Cruella is how the screenplay escalates the public fashion battle between the established Baroness and the punk-minded Cruella.
Sean P. Means, The Movie Cricket

It’s a screenplay that’s tying itself in knots to create a brand new character that’s more Harley Quinn than Cruella De Vil.
Kyle Pinion, ScreenRex

Needlessly complicated and stuffed with too many supporting characters.
Brent Hankins, The Lamplight Review


How is Emma Stone?

Emma Stone delivers an unmissable performance that is every bit as Oscar-worthy as her work in La La Land.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

Emma Stone absolutely crushes this role, so much so that it can be said she blows Glenn Close’s portrayal out of the water.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Stone is theatrical and clownish in the best way, wearing the over-the-top expressions that’ve sprinkled charm into her other roles like costume jewelry.
Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine


Emma Thompson in Cruella

(Photo by ©2021 Disney Enterprises)

What about Emma Thompson?

The definition of glorious, Thompson delivers a delightfully droll Baroness Von Hellman.
Hope Madden, MaddWolf

Thompson will most likely require some amount of reconstructive surgery on her jaw from the amount of scenery she chews throughout this movie.
Brian Lloyd, entertainment.ie

Thompson’s Baroness is the best thing — and only good thing — in the movie.
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle


And when they’re on screen together?

Together, they are the highly strung dysfunctional double-act that post-lockdown cinema didn’t know it needed.
Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

Echoing the same energies as Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, Stone and Thompson are a wealth of Oscar calibrated perfection.
Nate Adams, The Only Critic

Scenes between the Emmas elevate the entire project, allowing Thompson to radiate devastating narcissism and Stone to mine her character’s emotional and intellectual landscape.
Hope Madden, MaddWolf

There is no doubt that these are two of the greatest actresses of all time, and to see them working so incredibly together, is a treat.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Every time the two Emmas have a scene together, in which they must be drippingly arch and very British, Older Emma wipes Younger Emma right off the screen.
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

The two are a delight both apart and together.
Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects


Paul Walter Hauser, Emma Stone, and Joel Fry in Cruella

(Photo by ©2021 Disney Enterprises Inc.)

How is the rest of the cast?

Hauser and Fry are terrific as Estella/Cruella’s crew. They’re animated without being “cartoony,” giving their supporting characters multi-faceted internality and introspection.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

While the entire ensemble is delightful, Joel Fry is notable as the sensitive and loyal Jasper.
Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

If there’s a weak link then it’s John McCrea, who delivers a somewhat wooden performance as vintage fashion shop owner Artie.
Patrick Cremona, Radio Times

Unfortunately, Mark Strong is wasted in a mostly forgettable role that could have been filled by any British actor.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com


We’ve been hearing about those costumes…

They are ingenious and artful in their presentation. They are complex and tell stories all on their own. They are provocative and challenging, yet enticing.
Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness

The way the move, the way they standout in a crowd, and the way that either Emma wears them, is just a joy to look at.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

You don’t need to be a fashion connoisseur to appreciate the jaw-dropping design choices made throughout the movie.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

The biggest mic drops of the film come from its jaw-dropping dresses: One moment featuring a garbage truck is a particularly extravagant bit of sartorial effectwork.
Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine

The costumes are spectacular — it’s just that they’re the only exciting thing onscreen for the middle hour of the film.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush


Cruella

(Photo by ©2021 Disney Enterprises Inc.)

Will the costumes get some awards love?

There’s not a world in which Jenny Beavan’s incredible costuming work doesn’t get award attention.
Nate Adams, The Only Critic

There’s no doubt that Jenny Beavan will score this film’s lone Oscar nomination and likely win.
Kyle Pinion, ScreenRex

Costume designer Jenny Beavan is more than likely on her way to at least another nomination for her work here.
Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness

Jenny Beavan (Costume Designer), Nadia Stacey (Hair & Makeup), and their respective teams are hopefully already having their names etched into next year’s Academy Awards.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com


How are the movie’s punk rock trappings?

The jukebox Cruella soundtrack, which includes hits from a number of ‘60s and ‘70s bands, is broadly excellent.
Patrick Cremona, Radio Times

It’s non-conformist with a bad attitude, badass music, and punk rock fits that would make Vivienne Westwood applaud.
Sherin Nicole, idobi.com

It makes the entire punk scene come to life with her signature black and white flair that matches her rebellious spirit and anarchist energy.
Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

Cruella often veers into that Disneyfied corporate mall-punk of The Nightmare Before Christmas Hot Topic apparel.
Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine

It’s hard to not roll your eyes at its attempt to sell you on the idea that this is a “punk/rebel” take on the character. Yeah, because there’s nothing more punk than market tested four quadrant cinema.
Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine


Cruella

(Photo by ©2021 Disney Enterprises Inc.)

Are there any issues?

My God does this movie need trimming. You will have aged noticeably by the time it’s over.
Hope Madden, MaddWolf

It is simply too long. Clocking in at nearly two hours and fifteen minutes is a bit ridiculous and feels unnecessary.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Cruella is rather weighed down by an overly baggy runtime and a few pacing issues, which means it sometimes threatens to turn from a fun romp into a bit of a slog.
Patrick Cremona, Radio Times

Were it 80 minutes, its sins could largely be seen as forgivable, but somehow it manages to be nearly an hour longer than that and it feels every moment of that running time.
Kyle Pinion, ScreenRex


Will we want more?

I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing what happens next.
Douglas Davidson, Elements of Madness

[It leaves] itself open for a sequel that, frankly, it doesn’t need or deserve.
Brian Lloyd, entertainment.ie


Cruella releases in theaters and streams on Disney+ with Premium Access on May 28, 2021.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

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