Friday, 18 June 2021

‘Cruella’ stylish, campy adventure; ABC-TV preview



‘CRUELLA’ RATED PG-13

The setting of “Cruella” begins in the mid-1960 and finds its footing in 1970s London amid the punk rock era, which is befitting for its titular character, a young grifter named Estella (Emma Stone) determined to make her mark in the fashion world with a subculture flair.

As opposed to our familiarity with “101 Dalmatians,” a divergent origin story is at the heart of “Cruella,” where we learn that a very young Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) endured a tough childhood and became an orphan who made her way to London.

Her two-tone black and white hair sets Estella apart from everyone else, but she finds dodgy soul mates in a pair of London pickpockets, Jasper (Joel Fry) and goofy Horace (Paul Walker Hauser), who become her accomplices in petty crimes and then on a grander scale.

Taking a low-wage janitorial job at a posh department store, Estella seeks to work her way into an apprentice position with the haughty fashion designer Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson).

After landing a dream design job, Estella becomes increasingly resentful of the abusive Baroness, morphing into her alter ego of Cruella to engage in an ingenious bit of fashion terrorism that seeks to disrupt her boss’ hold on a lofty perch as the sartorial trendsetter.

More disturbing is a revelation of the real source of Cruella’s discontent and resentment of the Baroness. While Cruella moves to a dark side which makes her naughty if not an incipient anti-hero, it’s the Baroness who is a hands-down evil tyrant.

There is a rooting interest in Cruella’s fashion escapades that are designed like a commando operation to upstage the Baroness, whether during a gala costume ball or the unveiling of a new line of haute couture.

Abetted by the media circus that chronicles her impromptu fashion shows, in part due to the interest of journalist Anita Darling (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Cruella revels in flamboyant antics that unsettle the cold exterior of the Baroness.

Motivated by revenge for reasons ultimately disclosed, Cruella’s ambition is not just to take the fashion world by storm, but to emerge on top in a contest of energetic verbal jousts and one-upmanship with the icy Baroness.

“Cruella” has plenty to offer most audiences, from a great soundtrack of the period, ranging from the funk band Ohio Players to punk rock The Clash to the broad range of Nina Simone, to the visual appeal of elaborate costumes and sets.

On the whole, “Cruella” is a campy adventure that savors the naughtiness of its titular character and those in her orbit. It’s pure fun and thankfully lacks animal cruelty, though Cruella has good reason to dislike Dalmatians.

Cruella claims late in the story that she’s “brilliant, born bad and a little bit mad.” Add to that the mid-credits scene and Cruella saying she’s got a few ideas about the future, and this may not be the last we’ve seen of Emma Stone vamping it up as a Disney villain.

ABC TV PREVIEW

During its recent Upfront presentation, FOX claimed to be the number one network for the second year in a row.

ABC has released their 2021-22 season prime-time schedule, asserting it holds the top spot of the entertainment networks among adults 18-49 for the second year in a row.

There is likely minimal, if any, interest among viewers as to where a network stands in the ratings. All we care about is investing time in new or ongoing series that hold our attention.

For the fall season, ABC has announced two new series. “Queens” is about four estranged and out-of-touch women in their 40s who reunite for a chance to recapture their fame and regain the swagger they had as the Nasty Bitches, a ‘90s group that made them legends in the hip-hop world.

“Queens” stars Eve as Brianna aka Professor Sex, Naturi Naughton as Jill aka Da Thrill, Nadine Velazquez as Valeria aka Butter Pecan, Brandy as Naomi aka Xplicit Lyrics, as well as Taylor Sele as Eric Jones and Pepi Sonuga as Lil Muffin.

Inspired by the beloved award-winning series of the same name, “The Wonder Years” is a coming-of-age story set in the late 1960s that takes a nostalgic look at a Black middle-class family in Montgomery, Alabama, through the point of view of 12-year-old Dean (Elisha “EJ” Williams).

With the wisdom of his adult years, Dean’s hopeful and humorous recollections show how his family found their “wonder years” in a turbulent time. “The Wonder Years” stars Don Cheadle, narrating the series as adult Dean Williams.

While two midseason series, “Abbott Elementary” and “Maggie,” are in the works, the most consequential limited series to come most likely early in 2022 is “Women of the Movement,” shining a light on Emmett Till’s mother and her search for justice for the vicious killing of her son.

The tragedy of 14-year-old African-American Emmett’s brutal torture and murder during the Jim Crow era in 1955 Mississippi galvanized the Civil Rights movement. Adrienne Warren stars as Mamie Till-Mobley and Cedric Joe as Emmett Till.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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