Now available in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access, Cruella is a mostly fun origin story.
Emma Stone plays Estella, an orphan in 60s & 70s London with a talent for design and mischief. She lands a job with the Baroness (Emma Thompson), a narcissistic and ruthless fashion magnate. What follows is essentially a Disney version of a heist film.
At 134 minutes, Cruella runs a little too long, but the plotting works reasonably well and the costume designs are fantastic. The film's real selling point is Stone, who's having a blast in the title role. Stone's matched by Thompson's villainous turn, which recalls Meryl Streep's performance in The Devil Wears Prada. The two are ably backed by a supporting cast featuring Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell) and Mark Strong.
The film has to walk a fine line between Cruella being a believable anti-heroine but also remaining kid-friendly because it's a Disney film (albeit one with a PG-13 rating). Director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) and screenwriters Tony McNamara and Dana Fox pull off the balancing act pretty well. It's certainly a better effort in that regard than Disney's previous attempt at something similar, the financially successful but artistically blah Maleficent. It may not break new ground, but it's a fun day at the movies.