Cruella, aka The Battle of the Emmas, is a prequel to the Disney classic, 101 Dalmatians. The mid-credits scene leaves you right where the original film began. Emma Stone plays Estella, the kind portion of Cruella DeVille’s personality. Emma Thompson is The Baroness, a high fashion designer in London and the target of Cruella’s rage. Estella works for The Baroness while Cruella torments her.
Cruella is an origin story nobody was asking for about a villain that attempts to murder puppies to make a coat. The Baroness is a heartless and overbearing head of a major design house who only looks out for herself. She does not give credit where credit is due to her employees. The story might have explored how her rough exterior was developed in decades of fighting against the patriarchy in high fashion, but it does not. The Baroness is an unredeemable character, who despite being live-action, comes across as one-dimensional.
Estella and Cruella have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation mixed with what the fashion industry thinks is punk rock. Estella is the kind child of a single mom who is trying her best to make her mother proud, yet continuously causes mayhem. Cruella is a character that embraces that mayhem, chaos, and cruelty. The film dives down the nature versus nurture debate and comes out on the side of nature quite disappointingly.
I was entertained through most of the film, but their pacing varied, and some montages went on too long. Try as I might it was hard to root for The Baroness or Cruella. They are both such wretchedly awful people. Cruella subsumes Estella so quickly that you never get a chance to develop a strong bond with Estella.
The film is at its best during the Devil Wears Prada parts. While it is hard to pick a side, it is fun to watch the two Emmas battle on screen. This film is enjoyable on a big screen, but I would skip the Disney+ early access as this is not geared towards children. You can always wait until it comes to Disney+ for free and not be missing out on anything.