Cruella (PG, 134 minutes)
Originally slated for release over Christmas 2020, Cruella marks the film industry’s biggest weekend since the outbreak of COVID a week on from the tentative beginnings of cinemas reopening.
This prequel, also available to stream on Disney +, seeks to rehabilitate the image of one of Disney’s biggest villains in much the same way as it did with Sleeping Beauty baddie Maleficent and with only marginally more success.
Trying to convince an audience that someone who wants to wear spotted dog has any redeeming features is a bit of an uphill battle, portraying dalmations as vicious guard dogs – about as far as you can get from their actual temperament, and I should know because I had one – is a mark of their desperation in trying to turn villain into victim.
Casting everyone’s second favourite 30 year-old Oscar winner, Emma Stone, as the monochrome-haired fashionista is sure to increase the likeability factor, of course.
Set in the 1960s and 70s, we see self proclaimed child genius Estella’s journey from precocious St Trinianesque nipper into evil mastermind as unlucky victim of circumstance rather than the more likely backstory of a disturbed mini Norma Bates plucking the feathers from budgies to make doll’s clothes.
That would have been far more believable, and arguably more entertaining, but unlikely to have kept its PG rating for kiddies.
Instead, quirky petty criminal and toilet cleaner Estella comes up against her own nemesis, and as it turns out her trigger, in designer The Baroness, played by Dame Emma Thompson.
Described as a comedy-drama, Cruella is neither. It’s a piece of throwaway, uninspired popcorn without the pop.
The character wasn’t created to be liked after 60 years of being the RSPCA’s worst nightmare.
The words of Jessica Rabbit: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way,” just don’t ring true.