Watch Cruella (2021), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie
A live-action prequel feature film following a young Cruella de Vil.
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 was 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 (alternate) 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.
In 2013 Walt Disney Pictures announced the film’s development with Andrew Gunn as a 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 generally positive reviews with critics praising the performances (particularly Stone, Thompson, and Hauser), Gillespie’s direction, visual style, costume design, production values, and soundtrack, but criticising its screenplay.
It grossed over $233 million worldwide. The film earned two nominations at the 94th Academy Awards, including Best Makeup and Hairstyling, winning Best Costume Design. It was also nominated in the former category and won in the latter at the 27th Critics’ Choice Awards and 75th British Academy Film Awards while Stone was nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical at the 79th Golden Globe Awards. A sequel is in development, with Stone set to reprise her titular role.
Cruella (2021) Trailer
Cruella (2021) Reviews
But although it was theoretically inspired by a Disney cartoon feature adapted from Dodie Smith’s book, you could change the heroine’s name and take out a handful of iconic production design elements (such as Cruella’s yin-yang hair and Bentley roadster, and the spotted dogs) and have a serviceable feature in the vein of “Matilda,” “Madeline,” or “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”—or, for that matter, countless Charles Dickens film adaptations, wherein a plucky child or teenager navigates a world of useless or treacherous adults, becoming embroiled in plots to steal this object or expose that bad person.
All in all, not a bad setup for a knockabout comedy-drama set in what feels like an alternate universe—one that’s more clever and colorful than the one we’re stuck with, although Jasper and Fry never quite feel like more than obligatory sidekicks, and Cruella is given a childhood best friend, Maya (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), a photojournalist and gossip columnist who is reduced to the status of a plot device in the film’s second half.
But Estella needs to become Cruella De Vil, just as Arthur Fleck had to become the Joker and Anakin Skywalker had to become Darth Vader, otherwise the production can’t end up in theaters and on Disney+. And so “Cruella,” much like the half-charming, half-pointless “Solo,” has to shoehorn bits of lore and backstory and fanwankery into the narrative, none more risible than the moment where the heroine decides that Cruella needs an equally colorful last name and takes it from a certain model of automobile.
Did we need that? Isn’t the wordplay on “Devil” and “da vil(lain)” sufficient? Apparently not, and of course, young children are going to eat that sort of thing right up, even though it’s (amazingly) even worse than the scene in “Solo” where the intergalactic customs official assigns the hero his last name because he’s traveling alone.
Were it not for the acrobatic camerawork, the game lead performances by two Emmas, and the parade of eye-popping costumes by Jenny Beavan—eighty knockouts in 134 minutes, not counting the period-inspired background garb on the extras—it would be a nonsensical heap of broken images, as aesthetically bankrupt as “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and the first “Suicide Squad.”
More vexing is the film’s reluctance to own the fact that—as one of many obvious song cues assure us—it has Sympathy for the Devil. She’s not really the devil—not even remotely, as the script keeps telling us—but she is an awful person in many ways, and we are expected to adore her because the Baroness is so much worse.
The movie hits a giddy peak in its final act when it becomes a contest of wills. It’s here that the leads cut loose. Thompson in particular achieves cartoonish grandiosity, a supervillain armored in haute couture. Every head tilt, sneer, and side-eye is a non-physical assault on the Baroness’ enemies and underlings, some of who don’t realize they’ve been symbolically executed until their heads hit the basket. The effect is similar to what Cate Blanchett achieved in “Thor: Ragnarok,” another film where the costumes were practically giving performances of their own, and the smartest actors in the cast knew how to merge with them.
Cruella (2021) Credits
Emma Stone as Cruella de Vil / Estella
Emma Thompson as Baroness von Hellman
Mark Strong as Boris
Joel Fry as Jasper
Paul Walter Hauser as Horace
Emily Beecham as Catherine
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Anita
Jamie Demetriou as Gerald
John McCrea as Artie
Abraham Popoola as George
- Craig Gillespie
Writer (based upon the novel “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” by)
- Dodie Smith
Writer (story by)
- Aline Brosh McKenna
- Kelly Marcel
- Steve Zissis
- Dana Fox
- Tony McNamara
- Nicolas Karakatsanis
- Tatiana S. Riegel
- Nicholas Britell
Cruella (2021) Plot
In 1964 England, Estella is a creative child with a talent for fashion, but is ostracized for her unusual hair and develops a nefarious streak. Her mother, Catherine, decides to move them to London, stopping at a party at Hellman Hall to ask the host for money. Sneaking inside, Estella loses her mother’s necklace while being chased by the host’s ferocious Dalmatians, which push Catherine off a cliffside balcony to her death. Orphaned, Estella runs away to London and befriends street urchins Jasper and Horace.
Ten years later in 1974, Estella practices thievery and grifts with Jasper and Horace, honing her fashion skills by designing their disguises, alongside their dogs, Buddy and Wink. For her birthday in 1977, Jasper and Horace get her a job at the Liberty department store, but Estella is made a janitor and denied the chance to use her talents.
She drunkenly redecorates a window display and impresses the Baroness von Hellman—a renowned but authoritarian haute couture designer—who offers her a coveted job at her fashion house. Estella gains the Baroness’s confidence but notices her wearing Catherine’s necklace, which the Baroness claims is a family heirloom that an employee once stole. Estella asks Jasper and Horace to help retrieve the necklace during the Baroness’s Black and White Ball.
To conceal her identity, Estella creates an alter-ego, “Cruella”, and wears one of the Baroness’s old designs from a vintage clothing store owned by the flamboyant Artie. At the ball, Cruella steals the spotlight as Jasper and Horace break into the Baroness’s vault, but she is already wearing the necklace. Jasper releases rats into the party, allowing Estella to swipe the necklace.
The Baroness summons her Dalmatians with a dog whistle, and Estella realizes the Baroness caused Catherine’s death. In the ensuing chaos, one of the Dalmatians swallows the necklace. Seeking revenge, Estella orders Jasper and Horace to kidnap the Dalmatians, and recovers the necklace. Cruella upstages the Baroness at various events in extravagant fashions, gaining notoriety via society columnist Anita Darling, Estella’s childhood friend. Furious, the Baroness fires her lawyer, Roger Dearly, while Cruella’s increasingly haughty behavior discomforts Jasper.
Estella designs and sews an elaborately beaded dress as the signature piece for the Baroness’s spring collection and stages a robbery in the fashion house, leading the Baroness to lock up all the dresses. The night of the spring show, the Baroness opens the vault to find that the entire collection has been destroyed by thousands of moths, having emerged from the beads on the dress which were actually moth cocoons. Seeing what she has done, the Baroness realizes Estella and Cruella are the same person.
Having wrecked the Baroness’ show, Cruella stages her own fashion show outside in Regent’s Park, wearing a faux Dalmatian-fur coat. Returning home, Estella is confronted by the Baroness and her men, who have captured Jasper and Horace. Setting fire to the building, the Baroness leaves Estella to die, and has Jasper and Horace sent to prison for her murder. Estella is saved by John, the Baroness’s valet, who reveals that the necklace unlocks a box containing Estella’s birth records: the Baroness is her biological mother.
She had ordered John to murder the infant Estella to focus on her career and keep her late husband’s inheritance. Instead, John 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’s charity gala, having arranged for all the guests to dress as Cruella. Estella confronts her mother on the balcony, and the Baroness feigns an embrace before pushing her over the cliff, unwittingly witnessed by her guests.
Estella secretly survives with a hidden parachute and, now legally dead, adopts her Cruella persona for good. The Baroness is arrested, swearing revenge on Cruella De Vil. Before her “death”, Estella willed her inheritance to Cruella, including the manor which she renames Hell Hall, moving in with her accomplices. In a mid-credits scene, Anita and Roger each receive a Dalmatian puppy from Cruella.
Cruella (2021) Box office
As of March 6, 2022, Cruella has grossed $86.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $147.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $233.5 million.
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.”
The film made $26.5 million in its domestic opening and earned $16.1 million in 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.
Cruella (2021) Critical reception
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 74% of 400 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.
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded the film four out of five stars, describing it as “entertaining” and an “outrageous punk”, as well as praising the performances and dynamic between Stone and Thompson. Furthermore, Bradshaw also complimented the tone of the film’s soundtrack to Michael Jackson and similarly praised the film’s mid-70s costume and production designs of Beavan and Crombie as “top-notch”.
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.
The Daily Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin scored the film four out of five, similarly praised the film, which he described as a “rollicking tale” and an “acid-tipped wackiness”, and lauded the film for its different approach in the Disney live-action adaptations as well as the previous 101 Dalmatians versions and its interpretation of the central character in a new context.
He also similarly praised the performances (particularly Stone and Thompson) as well as the supporting cast, which he referred to as “zany”, while specifically remarking of Stone’s performance of Cruella De Vil as “sharp-angled, hyper-expressive” and that Thompson’s portrayal of the Baroness “stalks the fine line between threatening and ludicrous with stiletto-heel precision”. In addition, Collin also praised the film’s visual style and Beavan’s costume design as “eyeball-popping” and “a garden-hose-blast to the eyeballs of pure sartorial flair and exuberance”.
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.”
Cruella (2021) Accolades
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipients||Result|
|Academy Awards||March 27, 2022||Best Costume Design||Jenny Beavan||Won|
|Best Makeup and Hairstyling||Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne, and Julia Vernon||Nominated|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||January 31, 2022||Time Waster Remake or Sequel Award||Cruella||Nominated|
|ACE Eddie Awards||March 5, 2022||Best Edited Feature Film – Comedy||Tatiana S. Riegel||Nominated|
|American Cinematheque Awards – Tribute To The Crafts||January 26, 2022||Feature Film – Costume Designer||Jenny Beavan||Won|
|Art Directors Guild Awards||March 5, 2022||Excellence in Production Design for a Fantasy Film||Fiona Crombie||Nominated|
|British Academy Film Awards||March 13, 2022||Best Costume Design||Jenny Beavan||Won|
|Best Makeup and Hair||Nadia Stacey and Naomi Donne||Nominated|
|Casting Society of America||March 23, 2022||Feature Big Budget – Comedy||Mary Vernieu, Lucy Bevan, Bret Howe, Emily Brockmann, and Olivia Grant||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association||December 15, 2021||Best Costume Design||Jenny Beavan||Nominated|
|Costume Designers Guild Awards||March 9, 2022||Excellence in Period Film||Won|
|Critics’ Choice Movie Awards||March 13, 2022||Best Costume Design||Won|
|Dorian Awards||March 17, 2022||Campiest Flick||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||January 9, 2022||Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical||Emma Stone||Nominated|
|Gold Derby Film Awards||February 27, 2022||Best Costume Design||Jenny Beavan||Won|
|Best Makeup and Hair||Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne, and Julia Vernon||Nominated|
|Grammy Awards||April 3, 2022||Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media||Cruella – Various Artists||Nominated|
|Hollywood Critics Association||January 8, 2022||Best Costume Design||Jenny Beavan||Won|
|Best Hair & Makeup||Carolyn Cousins and Nadia Stacey||Nominated|
|Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards||December 1, 2021||Best Costume Design||Jenny Beavan||Won|
|London Film Critics’ Circle||February 6, 2022||Technical Achievement of the Year||Nominated|
|Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards||February 9, 2022||Best Period and/or Character Make-Up in a Feature-Length Motion Picture||Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne, and Guy Common||Won|
|Best Period and/or Character Hair Styling in a Feature-Length Motion Picture||Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne, and Julia Vernon||Nominated|
|Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards||April 9, 2022||Favorite Movie Actress||Emma Stone||Nominated|
|People’s Choice Awards||December 7, 2021||The Drama Movie of 2021||Cruella||Won|
|The Drama Movie Star of 2021||Emma Stone||Nominated|
|Online Film Critics Society Awards||January 24, 2022||Best Costume Design||Cruella||Nominated|
|San Diego Film Critics Society||January 10, 2022||Best Costume Design||Jenny Beavan||Won|
|Best Use of Music||Cruella||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||October 25, 2022||Best Fantasy Film||Cruella||Pending|
|Best Actress in a Film||Emma Stone||Pending|
|Best Film Music||Nicholas Britell||Pending|
|Best Film Production Design||Sue Chan||Pending|
|Best Film Costume Design||Jenny Beavan||Pending|
|Seattle Film Critics Society||January 17, 2022||Best Costume Design||Jenny Beavan||Nominated|
|Set Decorators Society of America Awards||February 22, 2022||Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a Comedy or Musical Feature Film||Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton||Nominated|
|St. Louis Film Critics Association||December 19, 2021||Best Costume Design||Jenny Beavan||Won|
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Cruella (2021) Movie Info
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