'Cruella' Escapes the "Box" in a Doggie Caper Comedy

by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
'Cruella' Escapes the "Box" in a Doggie Caper Comedy
(c) Disney

"Cruella's" out of the box.  Who would have thought a Dalmatian kidnapper had such a cruel childhood bandied by boys, dogs, and blamed for the other crashes has a talent for fashion designing? More, that "Devil Wear Prada," Emma Stone has serious nods to a dark "Cinderella"  and in this prequel only three  Dalmatians troll her. 

Stone has a Margo (Suicide Squad) Robbie  and Joaquin  (Joker ) Phoenix   quirky, punk burst into song persona as she tries to climb from the on her knees cleaning lady to big time fashion design and outing a long kept secret. During times of servitude, she wears thick glasses and plain hair (think "Ugly Betty")  Stone has her almost likable (if you haven't seen "101") yet has absorbed the extreme bullied trauma and twists and sarcasm more than hint she's not going to be a "normal" adult evidenced by renaming the mansion she grew up in as a peon. 

Baroness von Hellman (Elizabeth Thompson ) scorches as a narcissistic (that trait seems to be an equal for villain/evil) head of a prestigious London fashion house, a renowned designer, but with a trait that  Miranda (Meryl Streep, Devil Wears Prada") lacks ---  a killer's heart  and mind. 

Runway glitz and glamour abound as the Baroness becomes the "You're Fired" CEO. She's so much more feared than Miranda whose appearance resulted in the office staff donning their dress code pumps and other accessories. 

"Cruella's" filmmaking team have a challenging task ---- infuse the dastardly "101 Dalmatians" antagonist with traits that swing viewer's empathy. They moderately succeed, especially when Cruella displays great designer talent. They stay on target by placing her character into small-time crime capers , one of which is justified. 

One piece of trivia: Cruella de Vil's character had to drop her smoking habit. Times have changed. Disney banned smoking on screen  continuity will not overcome the stance. 

'Cruella' Escapes the "Box" in a Doggie Caper Comedy
(c) Disney)

Stone and Thompson rivet as rivals that they were born to play.  I agree with a critic praising Stone for "mixing   Cruella with sweet vulnerability and stone cold insanity that is more reminiscent of a super hero character than a Disney one ... For once, it is  a better the de Vil you don't know rather than the one you grew up on."

Stone's 70s character has far less inane cruelty than the woman who wants to slay 101 dogs for a fur coat. She's endured just enough abusiveness and has a penchant for mischief that it's a long stretch to revisit her original persona. "Cruella" has lots of friendly and tenacious dogs, to which she is friendly, except the spotted ones that sense a future iconic villain.

Unlike most Disney live action remakes , "Cruella" has snappy, slap happy dialogue and absurdities that mom and dad will stay awake. Almost a "girl's night out", almost.