Movie review: Cruella
If this had not been rolled out by Disney, Cruella would be fulfilling its maximum potential by going down the road of the 2019 psychological thriller Joker.
An origin story about a notoriously devilish, deranged and diabolical villain deserves to venture to darker - and maybe almost unforgivable - territory, and we know Emma Stone (The Favourite, La La Land, Birdman) can easily deliver in that department like fellow Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix.
But Cruella de Vil's hands are tied by the family-friendly 101 Dalmatians franchise.
There is nothing cruel or nasty about this latest incarnation.
Estella/Cruella (Stone) is inherently a decent young woman who does not even show the slightest interest in skinning the dalmations that appear in this crime caper to fashion a fur coat.
She even keeps puppies as pets, with nary a whiff of animal cruelty.
It is an immediate disconnect from what we know of Cruella, who has been a symbol of greed, vanity and overt evil over the decades.
Similar to Angelina Jolie's Maleficent movies, an iconic Disney antagonist is sanitised and humanised for mass consumption and likeability.
But if you can get past the misnomer, then Cruella is wicked fun.
For one, it is refreshing to see a live-action update set in the real world of 1970s London, as opposed to the fantastical fairy tale realms of Maleficient, Aladdin and other classic Disney princess properties.
Fans of The Devil Wears Prada will rejoice too, because this is an unabashed Disneyfied retread.
Like Anne Hathaway's Andy, Estella starts off rough around the edges before rising through the ranks in the fashion industry.
But her heartbreaking backstory really allows Stone to give her character agency, dimension and emotional range.
And just like how Meryl Streep stole the show with her withering put-downs as icy magazine editrix Miranda Priestly, Emma Thompson completely takes over the screen every time the Baroness appears.
Downright terrifying, ruthless and manipulative, she is probably more Cruella than Cruella herself.
Watching the two Emmas deliciously trade barbs and play up their crackling rivalry is worth the ticket price.
Then there is the eye-popping Oscar-worthy fashion feast on display.
It is hard not to be blown away by the film's piece de resistance - a garbage truck frock with a 12m-long train.
STARRING: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Mark Strong
DIRECTOR: Craig Gillespie
THE SKINNY: Set in 1970s London amid the punk rock revolution, young grifter Estella’s (Stone) flair for fashion design catches the eye of fashion legend Baroness von Hellman (Thompson). But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous and revenge-bent Cruella.