|Directed by||Craig Gillespie|
|Based on||The Hundred and One Dalmatians|
by Dodie Smith
|Edited by||Tatiana S. Riegel|
|Music by||Nicholas Britell|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
|Box office||$233.3 million|
Cruella is a 2021 American crime comedy film based on the character Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith's 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. The film is directed by Craig Gillespie with a screenplay by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, from a story by Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis. It is the third live-action adaptation in the 101 Dalmatians franchise and serves as a reboot and an origin story for the title character. Emma Stone stars as the title character, with Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Mark Strong in supporting roles. Set in London during the punk rock movement of the 1970s, the film revolves around Estella Miller, an aspiring fashion designer, as she explores the path that will lead her to become a notorious up-and-coming fashion designer known as Cruella de Vil.
Walt Disney Pictures announced the film's development in 2013, with Andrew Gunn as producer. Stone was cast in 2016 and also serves as an executive producer on the film alongside Glenn Close, who portrayed Cruella in the previous live-action adaptations, 101 Dalmatians (1996) and 102 Dalmatians (2000). Principal photography took place in England between August and November 2019.
Cruella premiered in Los Angeles on May 18, 2021, the first major red carpet event since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and was released in the United States theatrically and simultaneously available on Disney+ with its Premier Access feature on May 28. The film received mixed reviews with praise from critics for the performances (particularly Stone, Thompson, and Hauser), Gillespie's direction, visual style, costume design, production values, and soundtrack, but criticism for its screenplay. It grossed over $233 million worldwide. A sequel is in development, with Stone set to reprise her role.
Estella is a creative child with a talent for fashion and a nefarious streak. Estella's mother, Catherine, decides to pull her from school to keep her record clean and move to London. On the way there, she stops at an upper-class party to ask for financial assistance. Despite being told to stay in the car, Estella sneaks into the party and unintentionally attracts the attention of the host's three ferocious Dalmatians. They chase her outside and push Catherine off a cliffside balcony to her death. Orphaned and blaming herself for Catherine's death, Estella runs away to London and befriends street urchins Jasper and Horace, who take her in.
Ten years later, Estella practices thievery with her friends, honing her fashion skills by designing their disguises, alongside their dogs, Buddy and Wink. For her birthday, Jasper and Horace get her an entry-level job at the Liberty department store. However, Estella is made a janitor and denied the chance to use her talents. When Estella drunkenly redecorates a window display, the Baroness von Hellman—a renowned but authoritarian haute couture designer—is impressed with Estella's work and offers her a coveted job at the Baroness' fashion house. Estella eagerly accepts and gains the Baroness' confidence. Although proud that her designs are put on display, she eventually notices her boss wearing a necklace that once belonged to Catherine. When the Baroness claims that an employee had previously stolen it, Estella asks Jasper and Horace to help her retrieve the necklace during the Baroness's upcoming Black and White Ball.
To conceal her identity at the Ball, Estella creates an alter-ego for herself named "Cruella" and wears one of the Baroness' old designs purchased from a vintage clothing store owner named Artie. Cruella steals the spotlight at the ball, buying Jasper and Horace enough time to break into the Baroness's high-security vault, only to realize that the Baroness is already wearing the necklace. Jasper, straying from the original plan, disguises himself as a waiter and releases rats into the party. As panic ensues, Estella manages to swipe the necklace. Noticing her necklace has been stolen, the Baroness summons her Dalmatians with a dog whistle, causing Estella to realize that the Baroness is ultimately responsible for Catherine's death. While escaping, Cruella's dog, Buddy, lost the necklace as one of the dalmatians swallowed it.
Seeking revenge, Estella orders Jasper and Horace to kidnap the Baroness's Dalmatians. Cruella upstages the Baroness by appearing at events and gatherings in extravagant fashions, gaining notoriety via Estella's childhood friend and columnist Anita Darling. Cruella's haughty and arrogant behavior increasingly discomforts Jasper and Horace, as well as the Baroness.
Estella sabotages the Baroness' spring collection show and simultaneously stages her own show in Regent's Park, wearing a faux Dalmatian-fur coat to further taunt the Baroness. Having realized that Estella and Cruella are the same person, the Baroness has Jasper and Horace arrested and sets fire to their home. Estella is left to die in the blaze but is rescued by the Baroness's valet, John. Estella discovers the necklace unlocks a box containing her birth records. She learns that the Baroness is her biological mother; at her birth, the Baroness ordered John to have the infant Estella murdered so she could focus solely on her career and keep her late husband's inheritance. John instead gave the baby to Catherine, one of the Baroness's maids, who raised Estella in secret.
Cruella breaks Jasper and Horace out of prison and reveals the truth, recruiting them, Artie, and John for her final scheme. The quintet sneaks into the Baroness' charity gala, where Estella meets her on the cliffside balcony, revealing she is the Baroness' daughter. The Baroness feigns embracing Estella before pushing her over the balcony; she then realizes that her guests have been led outside and witnessed the act. Estella survives with a hidden parachute and, with Estella symbolically dead, adopts her Cruella persona for good. The Baroness is arrested, and Cruella inherits Hellman Hall, renaming it Hell Hall and moving in with the rest of the quintet.
- Emma Stone as Estella / Cruella: An ambitious grifter and aspiring fashion designer, who will go on to become a notorious and dangerous obsessed criminal.
- Billie Gadsdon as 5-year-old Estella
- Tipper Seifert-Cleveland as 12-year-old Estella
- Emma Thompson as The Baroness: The narcissistic and authoritarian head of a prestigious London fashion house and a renowned haute couture designer, who is Estella's new boss and eventual rival, whom Estella later learns is her biological mother. She plays a key role in Estella's transformation.
- Joel Fry as Jasper: A thief who grew up with Estella after her adoptive mother's death. To play Jasper, Fry didn't look back at the character's depiction in the original animated film or the 1996 live-action remake, only copying his physical mannerisms.
- Ziggy Gardner as young Jasper
- Paul Walter Hauser as Horace: A thief who grew up with Estella after her adoptive mother's death and Jasper's brother. Hauser drew inspiration for the role from the performance of Bob Hoskins as Mr. Smee in Hook.
- Joseph MacDonald as young Horace
- Emily Beecham as Catherine: Estella's adoptive mother, an impoverished laundrywoman and former maid at Hellman Hall. She became Estella's guardian after the Baroness abandoned her daughter to pursue a career.
- Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Anita Darling: Estella's childhood friend, who is working as a gossip columnist. Anita is later gifted a female Dalmatian puppy named Perdita by Cruella.
- Florisa Kamara as young Anita
- Mark Strong as John: The Baroness' valet and loyal confidante who aids her in her schemes.
John McCrea portrays Artie, a member of Cruella's entourage and owner of a vintage fashion shop. He was promised to be the first original character in a live-action Disney film to be openly gay and was inspired by David Bowie and Marc Bolan. Additionally, Kayvan Novak portrays Roger Dearly, a lawyer working for the Baroness, who becomes a songwriter after he is fired, and is subsequently gifted a male Dalmatian puppy named Pongo by Cruella; Jamie Demetriou portrays Gerald, a clerk at Liberty who is Estella's initial boss; Andrew Leung portrays Jeffrey, the Baroness' assistant; Leo Bill portrays the headmaster at Estella's school; Paul Bazely portrays the police commissioner Weston; Ed Birch portrays the Baroness' head of security; Paul Chowdhry portrays a Kabab Shop Owner, while Abraham Popoola portrays his co-worker George; and Tom Turner appears as the Baron von Hellman, the Baroness' late husband and Cruella's biological father.
Development and casting
A live-action Cruella de Vil film, based upon the character in Disney's 101 Dalmatians franchise, was announced in 2013. Andrew Gunn was hired to produce the film, with Glenn Close (who previously played the character in the 1996 live-action adaptation 101 Dalmatians and its sequel 102 Dalmatians) serving as executive producer and Kelly Marcel revising the script originally written by Aline Brosh McKenna. In January 2016, Emma Stone was cast in the titular role of Cruella de Vil. Costume designer Jenny Beavan later stated that her role on the film was to help Stone appear as a younger 1970s portrayal of Close's 1990s role in 101 Dalmatians, possibly confirming the shared continuity between the films, though the characters of Roger and Anita appear as the same age as Cruella and portrayed as different races with different occupations in this film. However, Stone was not allowed to portray Cruella smoking as she had previously been since Disney had banned characters being shown smoking in its films since 2007.
In August 2016, Jez Butterworth was hired to rewrite the previous draft of the screenplay. In November 2016, it was reported that Disney had hired Alex Timbers to direct the live-action adaptation, with Marc Platt joining the film as a producer. However, in December 2018, it was revealed that Timbers had left the film due to scheduling conflicts and Craig Gillespie would instead direct the film. In May 2019, Emma Thompson joined the cast as the Baroness, described as "an antagonist to Cruella who's thought to be pivotal in her transformation to the villain we know today.” Nicole Kidman was considered to be the top choice and Charlize Theron, Julianne Moore, and Demi Moore were also in consideration for the role, while Dev Patel was considered for the role of Roger Dearly. The same month, Tony McNamara and Dana Fox were hired to write the recent version of the screenplay. Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser were added in the following months as Jasper and Horace.
In August 2019, during the D23 Expo, it was revealed that principal photography for Cruella had already begun. The first official image from the film featuring Stone as Cruella de Vil with three adult dalmatians on a leash, Hauser as Horace and Fry as Jasper was also unveiled during the event. In September 2019, Mark Strong, Emily Beecham and Kirby Howell-Baptiste were added to the cast. Filming wrapped in November 2019.
Music and soundtrack
A separate soundtrack album for the film was released on the same day. Both albums feature "Call Me Cruella", an original song performed by Florence and the Machine, which appears in the end credits of the film.
Theatrical and streaming
Cruella was originally scheduled to be theatrically released on December 23, 2020, but it was delayed to May 28, 2021 as filming began. The film received a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association, "for some violence and thematic elements," making it the second live-action remake/spin-off of a Disney animated film to receive the rating, following Mulan. On March 23, 2021, it was announced that the film would be released simultaneously on Disney+ with Premier Access in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film premiered at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles on May 18, 2021, the first major red carpet premiere since the pandemic began.
Tickets for the theatrical screenings went on sale on May 14, 2021, and it was announced that the film would also be screened in Dolby Cinema in select territories. It was first screened for critics the same day.
A prequel novel titled Cruella: Hello, Cruel Heart was published by Disney Publishing Worldwide on April 6, 2021. Written by Maureen Johnson, the novel is set before the events of the movie, in 1967. It followed sixteen-year-old Estella and her encounter with Magda and Richard Moresby-Plum, two wealthy siblings who introduced her to the world of the rich and famous. A tie-in novelization of the film by Elizabeth Rudnick was published by Disney on April 13, 2021. A book titled Cruella's Sketchbook was also released on the same day. A manga adaptation of the movie by Hachi Ishie, titled Cruella: Black, White and Red was released by Viz Media on August 17, 2021.
On May 28, 2021, Disney+, in partnership with Social Tailors and Jeferson Araujo released an AR Effect for Cruella, where users could share stories on Instagram of themselves with makeup and visuals inspired by the new movie of the Disney character.
Cruella was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Digital on June 25, 2021, and Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on September 21, 2021. In the United Kingdom and Australia, the film was released on home video on August 16 and 18, respectively.
According to Samba TV, the film was watched by about 686,000 American households in its debut weekend (39% behind Mulan's 1.12 million), resulting in around $20.57 million in revenue for Disney. The company also reported 83,000 UK households watched the film (resulting in $2.35 million), 15,000 in Germany, and 9,000 in Australia.
In the United States and Canada, Cruella was released alongside A Quiet Place Part II, and was projected to gross $17–23 million from 3,892 theaters in its opening weekend, and around $30 million over the four-day Memorial Day frame. The film made $7.7 million in its first day, including $1.4 million from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $21.5 million and a total of $26.5 million over the four days, finishing second at the box office. 61% of the tracked audience was female, with 43% being under 25 years old. In its sophomore weekend the film grossed $11 million, finishing third behind The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and A Quiet Place Part II. The film then fell to 5th place in its third weekend, grossing $6.7 million. Deadline Hollywood wrote that despite having a running total of $71 million through five weeks, sources believed that the "Disney+ Premier PVOD tier is impacting the pic's overall revenue, not just at the box office, but in the movie's downstream ancillary revenues."
Along with its $26.5 million domestic opening the film also made $16.1 million from 29 other countries, for a global debut of $43 million. In China, Cruella debuted with a less-than-expected $1.7 million opening, finishing behind holdover F9, which earned $8.9 million.
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 74% of 393 critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Cruella can't quite answer the question of why its title character needed an origin story, but this dazzling visual feast is awfully fun to watch whenever its leading ladies lock horns." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 59 out of 100 based on 56 critic reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported 84% of audience members gave it a positive score, with 63% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Writing for Variety, Peter Debruge said: "The director, who brought a wicked edge to pop-culture redux I, Tonya a few years back, has rescued Cruella from the predictability of the earlier 101 Dalmatians remakes and created a stylish new franchise of its own in which a one-time villain has been reborn as the unlikeliest of role models." A. O. Scott of The New York Times called the film "refreshing" within the Disney live-action efforts, while complimenting the film's visual style and storytelling in a Dickensian tale, as well as favorably referring the film as a PG-13 revenge take to Joker. Peter Travers, reviewing the film for ABC News, wrote: "If looks really were everything, Cruella would be flying high on the dazzling costumes that two-time Oscar winner Jenny Beavan has designed for and with two Oscar-winning Emmas–Stone and Thompson–are dressed to wow and deliver much to enjoy in this beautifully crafted fluffball and hits its stride when the two Emmas go on the diva warpath—all in the name of female empowerment." Justin Chang of Los Angeles Times remarked the movie as "dazzling fun" and lauded the performances of Stone and Thompson, of which he described the rivalry of the performances as "hard to resist on-screen", and hailed Beavan's costume design on the film as one of her best works since Mad Max: Fury Road, while drawing parallels of the film's moral ambiguities and Stone's portrayal of the titular character to her previous performance as Abigail Hill in The Favourite.
Alonso Duralde of TheWrap wrote: "Placing these characters in the '60s and '70s allows director Craig Gillespie and screenwriters Dana Fox and Tony McNamara to place the characters into an exciting moment of fashion history ... Costumer Jenny Beavan, art director Martin Foley, and production designer Fiona Crombie, and their respective departments, all seem to be enjoying and making the most of the film's period demands." In addition, Duralde also lauded the performances of Stone, Hauser, and Thompson, drawing comparisons of the characterizations of the latter's portrayal of the Baroness to Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada and Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread. Chicago Sun-Times's Richard Roeper rated the film with 3/4 stars, and highlighted Gillespie's direction for being "clever" and "devilishly offbeat" while praising the performances of Stone and Thompson as "appropriately over-the-top and wildly entertaining", drawing its comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada and also commended the costumes, makeup, and the production values of which he referred to as "spectacular", "dazzling" and a "visual feast", comparing its style to Phantom Thread and noting the similarities of the vibe and tone of the film's soundtrack to Goodfellas, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Baby Driver.
K. Austin Collins of Rolling Stone rated the film with three out of five stars, praising Stone's success in embodying the titular character, and describing her performance as "vampy, stylish, and cruel" while comparing the film's style of storytelling to I, Tonya, of which he noted a similar internalized victim-like story perspective of Tonya Harding to Cruella de Vil and even pointed out on the similar "plausibly two-sided" depiction of Stone's Cruella to Andrea "Andy" Sachs from The Devil Wears Prada, but with a twisted spin. He also commended the supporting performances, particularly Thompson and Hauser, referring the film as "a battle of wits and knits", "entertaining", and "fun". Jamie Jirak from ComicBook.com called the film as "raising the bar when it comes to their [Disney's] live-action catalog", praising the art department, the performances and nostalgic elements. Debopriyaa Dutta from Screen Rant opined that the film told a "masterfully nuanced origin" and praised the performances of Stone and Hauser. The Hollywood Outsider's Morgan Lanier described the film as “taking place in the 70’s with a lot of camp to lighten the mood”, praising Stone for giving Cruella “a twist of vulnerability” and giving the longstanding Disney villain a “fun glimmer”. Lanier also praised Thompson’s performance saying “Thompson gives the baroness the ability to chill a room”. Lanier concluded that the movie was “joyous, campy, great costumes, […] amplified by a killer soundtrack”. Kate Erbland of IndieWire gave the film a "B-", and labelling the film as "exciting" and "fun" and a "colorful, loud, and unexpected look" on the origin story of Cruella De Vil while Erbland singled out the praises on the casting and the performances of Stone, Thompson, Fry, Hauser, and the costumes, but found fault at the film's runtime of which she referred it as "bloated".
The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday described the film as "tedious, transgressive, chaotic and inert". While praising the performances of Stone, Thompson, Fry, and Hauser, as well as the costumes; she criticized the film, writing, and the runtime of which she found it as "overstuffed", "overlong", and "miserably misanthropic". Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle thought the film was misbegotten and felt that it favors more on style over substance. Though he praised Thompson's performance, the costume design and the soundtrack, he chided the film's writing as "lazy" and "careless". Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gave the film 2/4 stars, and said: "There's no denying that Cruella is stylish and kinetic, with a nasty edge that's unusual for a recent Disney live-action feature. But it's also exhausting, disorganized, and frustratingly inert, considering how hard it works to assure you that it's thrilling and cheeky." Jacobin's Eileen Jones labelled the film as a "dopey, uninspired, and tedious mess", specifically criticizing the script as "basically rotten" and describing the transformation of Cruella's character as "the complete mangling of one of the greatest Disney villains of all time." Jones took issue with the absence of the "implied critique [...] of Cruella's wealthy entitlement and mad consumer obsession" as shown in 101 Dalmatians, and the attempt to make a "legendary dalmatian-skinning villain" into a "scrappy, likable hero." Jones complimented the film's costume design, specifically emphasizing the "trash gown" shown at the Baroness fashion show, and describing it as "sufficiently cool that costume designer Jenny Beavan may win another Oscar."
In May 2021, both Stone and Thompson stated that they would like to do a second Cruella film in the style of The Godfather Part II, serving as both a sequel and prequel. In June 2021, Disney announced that a sequel is officially in the early stages of development, with Gillespie and McNamara expected to return as director and writer, respectively. In August 2021, Stone closed a deal to reprise her role in the sequel.
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