So my niece Foxtrot-Felicity Fenton dragged me along kicking and screaming to see the latest Disney offering Cruella. I am not one for the current trend of backstories for many a classic movie that appears to be all the rage. However, if you have ever seen Foxtrot throw a tantrum you will know that a grown man kicking and screaming is nothing in comparison, so I acquiesced and filled my boots with popcorn and Maltesers and prepared for the worst.
Luckily I expected a paper-thin plot and was not disappointed. With a budget of over one hundred million dollars, it would have been wonderful to see a decent proportion of it spent on the script, poor screenwriters are always bottom of the pecking order in my humble opinion. But the clunky script did not detract from what is a jolly old blast of a film. Much fun it is too, for all ages. Younger children will love the fast-paced action sequences, teenagers will adore the rebellious spirit that Cruella spits out as she stomps her way through the film. And any adults my age will thoroughly enjoy the nostalgic trip through nineteen seventies London. More on that later.
Firstly, quick, and I mean very quick premise. Poor orphan girl seeks revenge on the evil woman who killed her mother. The end. See, told you it was quick. You need not be familiar with the sublime Dodie Smith novel, or the two film adaptations of one hundred and one Dalmatians to enjoy Cruella. It is definitely a stand-alone film. Although if you are familiar with the story, it is an interesting take on how a dress designer might end up wanting to use Dalmation puppies to make a dress. However repugnant to the likes of you and me!
Moving swiftly on. Emma Stone is superb in the lead role as a genius dress designer whose talent has gone unnoticed as she cleans the toilets in the upmarket designer emporium Liberty of London. And Emma Thompson gives us her usual flawless performance as the evil dress designer The baroness. As a side note, any store whose tagline is ‘Purveyors of the idiosyncratic’ will always get my vote. They may have scrimped on the script, but boy did they go to town on the sets and locations. I have always loved lolling about in Liberty’s on a rainy day, and never has the store looked so stunning. And any film about a designer had better impress when it comes to costumes, and Cruella delivers. In spades. A long tracking shot through ‘Liberty’s is reminiscent of the nightclub scene in ‘Goodfellas’, where a plethora of extras in incredible nineteen seventies garb fill the screen. The attention to detail did not escape my beady eye.
But the big guns are pulled out for the main characters. Every costume worn by both Cruella and The Baroness would get paparazzi papping away if they were worn out and about by any of today’s starlets. Those of us with a few more years under our belts would easily recognise the Vivienne Westwood influence on Cruella’s inventions as she tries to steal the limelight from The Baroness of high fashion. All good stuff. Visually stunning.
You know I always have my ears open too when sitting in a dark room full of strangers, and Cruella delivers yet again on the soundtrack front. Nina Simone, The Doors, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones and many more are perfectly placed as Cruella and The Baroness tear across the screen. Foxtrot-Felicity was mortified as I started singing along at the top of my voice to Nancy Sinatra at one point. Don’t worry, she’ll learn.
Despite my protestations about the script, Cruella was much fun for both Foxtrot and myself. For wildly different reasons, but then, as always, that is the genius of Disney.