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‘Cruella’ is a punk-fueled and fashionable revenge tale that has critics split

Emma Stone stars as Cruella de Vil in Disney’s “Cruella.”

Disney

The critics are as split on “Cruella” as the main character’s iconic black-and-white hair.

For some, the campy, fashion-fueled manic fever dream of a film is a delight. For others, it’s a tangled, loud mess that doesn’t quite justify the cost of a movie ticket or the $30 Disney+ Premiere Access fee.

“Cruella” follows the life of Estella, a curious, rambunctious and creative young girl who doesn’t quite fit into the world. Her mother warns her not to let the “Cruella” side of her personality get the better of her, but it lurks and arrives in full-force a decade later.

After a tragedy leaves Estella orphaned and alone on the streets of London, the young girl teams up with two other street urchins, Jasper and Horace, to survive in the world by pickpocketing and small-time thieving.

A decade later, the trio is still working together, but Estella’s dream of becoming a fashion designer hasn’t waned. She is played by a fiercely committed Emma Stone, who embodies the “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” villain, mimicking her iconic chuckle and crazed driving with glee.

Through a twist of fate, Estella lands a job working for a legendary designer known as the Baroness, who is played with horrible delight by Emma Thompson. The two characters clash, leading Estella to embrace her Cruella side and transition into a ruthless competitor to the Baroness.

As of Thursday afternoon, “Cruella” holds a 72% Fresh rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes from 156 reviews.

Here’s what critics thought of “Cruella” ahead of its debut in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere Access on Friday:

Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times

“Imagine ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ on steroids, set in ’70s London, with Anne Hathaway’s character vengeful rather than sweet. Sounds kind of great, right?” Moira Macdonald wrote in her review of “Cruella” for The Seattle Times.

Macdonald praised the film for its wild imagination and the chemistry between Stone and Thompson, who spend the majority of the film at odds with each other.

She called Stone’s “dark-syrup” British accent “slightly feral and wickedly smart,” a foil to the Baroness’ drawl and withering retorts.

“‘Cruella’ is an absolute kick, and if you’ve been looking for a reason to go back to movie theaters, here it is,” Macdonald wrote.

Read the full review from Seattle Times.

Emma Stone stars in Disney’s “Cruella.”

Disney

A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“‘Cruella’ is a tame revenge story among a slate of recent tales of retribution that include ‘Joker,’ and “Promising Young Woman.”

“Cruella’s transgressive energies are kept within the bounds of social acceptability and the PG-13 rating,” A.O. Scott wrote in his review of the film for The New York Times. “Her motive is revenge, and her methods include fraud, theft and deceit, but the closest she comes to evil is occasional selfish insensitivity to her friends. She isn’t a monster. She’s an artist, and her theatrically outrageous misbehavior is a sign of her uncompromising creativity.”

Scott noted that the film is “easy enough to watch but hard to care much about.”

Read the full review from The New York Times.

Katie Rife, AV Club

Set in the ’70s, “Cruella” leans heavily into the punk world, drawing inspiration from the period for its fashion and music. For some, the musical cues, which includes “Sympathy for the Devil,” were a little too on the nose, but others found the playlist of era-accurate songs to be a fitting tribute to the time period.

“There are 37 pop tunes sprinkled throughout ‘Cruella,’ culminating with the most obvious song you can think of for a character whose last name is de Vil and for whom we feel sympathy,” said Katie Rife in her review of the film for AV Club.

“The soundtrack includes the likes of The Zombies, Nancy Sinatra, David Bowie, The Clash, ELO, Rose Royce, Blondie, Doris Day, Suzi Quatro, Nina Simone, and Deep Purple, all tastefully chosen but not especially revelatory,” she wrote. “Many of these songs have been used in other films, for one, and few are deep enough cuts to prompt much excitement from adult music lovers.”

Read the full review from AV Club.

Emma Stone stars as Cruella de Vil in Disney’s “Cruella.”

Disney

Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

“We’re not even halfway through the Disney villain origins story ‘Cruella’ when this much is clear: If this movie DOESN’T win Academy Awards for best makeup and hairstyling and best costume design, I can’t wait to see what tops it,” wrote Richard Roeper in his review of the film for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Roeper is one of many movie reviewers that discussed the film’s exquisite costuming in his evaluation of Disney’s latest live-action remake. He called the film a “visual feast.”

“Reynolds Woodcock from ‘The Phantom Thread’ would pass out from the sheer overwhelming number of scenes involving fashion design, discussion of fashion design, more fashion design — and pop-up fashion events taking place during traditional fashion events,” he wrote. “This is a VERY fashionable film.”

Read the full review from the Chicago Sun Times.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Rotten Tomatoes.

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