“Cruella” (Disney)

Emma Stone stars in a scene from the movie "Cruella." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/Laurie Sparham, Disney Enterprises, Inc.)

By Catholic News Service

Live-action origin story for the villain of Dodie Smith’s 1956 children’s novel, first seen on screen in the 1961 animated adaptation “101 Dalmatians.”

Originally called Estella (Emma Stone), she dreams of conquering 1970s London as a fashion designer and is thrilled to be taken under the wing of the ruthless reigning queen of the rag trade (Emma Thompson). But developments involving an heirloom and a family tragedy lead her to assume the titular persona and work secretly to bring on her mentor’s downfall, aided by her two long-standing best friends (Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser).

While director Craig Gillespie’s glossy romp offers Stone and Thompson the chance to camp it up, as scripted by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, the film never finds its moral footing since the screenwriters seem to want to let their ethically schizophrenic protagonist go over to the dark side yet keep her sympathetic. A frivolous treatment of theft and revenge as well as the presence of a transvestite character (John McCrea) make the proceedings even less appropriate for impressionable viewers.

Skewed values, including a benign view of homosexuality and cross-dressing, a vengeance theme, some stylized violence, a couple of mild oaths. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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