It isn’t easy, we’re told, to stir sympathy for the Devil.
Or, in this case, for de Vil. But a new mega-movie, arriving Friday (May 28), manages to do it.
“Cruella” (shown here) – the story of Cruella de Vil, the “101 Dalmatians” villain – opens in movie theaters and is simultaneously available to Disney+ customers who pay an extra Premier Access fee. My advice is the same as someone said (about another film) during the Oscars: “See it on the biggest screen you can.”
These are sights and sounds (lots of them) that should be savored.
“Cruella” is sort of like the summer superhero films, flaws and all. Like them, it’s too long (two hours, 14 minutes), too eager to throw its hero into an impossible situation, defying belief when she emerges.
It’s excessive … but makes up for it with awesome visuals and with two bonuses:
– It’s directed by Craig Gillespie, who knows how to add a jaunty, offbeat touch. He did great things on a small ($11 million) budget when he made “I, Tonya”; now he has the Disney bank to play with.
– Its script went through lots of writers, but started with a smart story by (among others) Aline Brosh McKenna, of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Devil Wears Prada.” She masters devilish women.
In this case, there are two of them, played by talented Emmas from different generations. Emma Thompson, 62, is the evil baroness; Emma Stone (shown here), 32, is the adult version of Estella – smart, orphaned, helpless (for a moment), then vividly vengeful.
All of this is set in early-1970s London, which adds to the feel. “Cruella” may be the first movie with songs ranging from the Doors, BeeGees, Queen and Ike and Tina Turner to Nina Simone and Judy Garland; its songwriting credits range from Lennon/McCartney to Cole Porter and Charlie Chaplin.
The setting also adds to the budget, presumably. Time after time, Gillespie fills the screen with spectacular ‘70s fashions and settings.
Along the way, we have to overlook a few things. Why is Estella/Cruella such a skilled fighter? Why is it so easy for her to be unrecognized? Her wig seems to be as ultra-deceptive as Clark Kent’s glasses.
Even her final scheme seemed like a long shot, requiring everything to work out precisely. By then, however, we’re simply rooting for anything she does; we’ve found sympathy for the de Vil.