Updated: Jul 29, 2021

This is undoubtedly one of the most pleasant surprises of the year so far.

Not because La La Land Oscar-winning actress Emma Stone isn’t capable of pulling off such a performance – but mainly because this origin story is surprisingly darn good.

Cruella gets the Maleficent-style treatment in this live-action feature telling the early years of one of cinema’s most notorious villains – that being the flamboyantly iconic 101 Dalmatians character of Cruella de Vil.

The story chronicles her rebellious early years as Estella, making her way in derelict accommodation near London’s Regents Park after the death of her Mum – after finding solace with her new ‘family’ of the similarly orphaned thieving-duo of Jasper (Game of Thrones’ Joel Fry) and Horace (Richard Jewell’s Paul Walter Hauser).

But after spending years doing theft-jobs alongside her part-time cleaning roles, she inadvertently catches the attention of Emma Thompson’s powerful fashion designer socialite, known as The Baroness, while working at the renowned Liberty Department Store.

After slowly working up the ladder with her eye for fashion and eventually getting into the iron-fisted Baroness’ good graces, a dramatic turn of events – that involves the death of her mother – completely flips the plot.

And while the story was already nicely simmering, this is where it really picks up, leading to the black/white hair of Estella’s childhood returning – and the birth of a vengefully-scheming ‘Cruella’ as she looks to bring down the Baroness.

No more plot spoilers here, but let’s just say the scriptwriters deserve many plaudits for the perfect plotline to suit Stone and the Cruella character.

Especially when you’ve just had to endure Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard – which was devoid of any ingenuity from start to finish.

This doesn’t have the same issues as what evolves is an enigmatic and adventurous story – that shows Disney really does have its ‘finger on the pulse’ at all times.

The ‘two Emmas’ – Stone and Thompson – are simply divine in their roles, and the duo of Fry and Walter Hauser deserve a noteworthy mention too.

There’s unsurprisingly already talk of a sequel, and it will be good to see how Stone’s Cruella evolves after this solidly dark and dazzling pre-101 Dalmatians debut.

Rating: 4/5

Gavin Miller

Cast: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Mark Strong, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, John McCrea, Kayvan Novak, Andrew Leung & Emily Beecham

Running Time: 2 Hrs 14 Mins

Director: Craig Gillespie

Go to for all the latest film information & showtimes at Peterborough’s Showcase Cinema De Lux