Review: Lady and the Tramp

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

classic, Family, Charlie Bean, Lady and the Tramp (2019), 2019, Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux, review, disney, Disney Plus

PLOT: The story of "an upper-middle-class American cocker spaniel named Lady who meets a streetsmart, downtown stray Schnauzer called the Tramp, and the two embark on many romantic adventures including that iconic spaghetti smooch scene.

classic, Family, Charlie Bean, Lady and the Tramp (2019), 2019, Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux, review, disney, Disney Plus

REVIEW: There are two kinds of Disney remakes: the ones that do something different (THE JUNGLE BOOK, CINDERELLA, DUMBO) and the ones that play it safe (THE LION KING, ALADDIN, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST). While the ones that mix things up don't stray too far from the source material, unless you count MALEFICENT, they at least try to inject something to set themselves apart from their animated inspiration. Disney's latest remake is LADY AND THE TRAMP which is also the first Disney feature film to premiere on the just launched Disney+ streaming service. The results are a film that is squarely aimed at a very young adult demographic who won't be turned off by the things missing from this movie, like a sense of humor or any sort of subtext.

With the 1955 version clocking in at a lean 76 minutes, director Charlie Bean (THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE) has expanded the remake by half an hour and yet I cannot figure out what was added of any value. There are more scenes involving the human characters, specifically Elliot the Dog Catcher (Adrian Martinez) and Lady's owners Jim Dear (KONG: SKULL ISLAND's Thomas Mann) and Darling (NEIGHBORS 2's Kiersey Clemons). In fact, a look at the human cast shows a significant diversity of ethnicities which allows for the casting of Yvette Nicole Brown and Ken Jeong in supporting roles. Even though the story is set in 1909, this feels like a much more contemporary cast in a story that is still about the class differences between Lady (Tessa Thompson) and the Tramp (Justin Theroux). But, it also feels a bit tone deaf as mixed race marriages were a taboo at the time and gives an even more unrealistic air to the proceedings.

Look, I get that the world is a more diverse place and including more than just white actors will make this film more appealing to wider audiences, but it also means that cultural sensitivity stretches to the animal roles, too. Jock, the Scottish Terrier, is now voiced by Ashley Jensen (her name is short for Jaclyn) and the infamous Siamese Cats song has been excised and replaced with a safer updated version (although it now sounds vaguley racist in a different way, but it could just be me). These changes, however, seem only to exist for the purpose of bringing LADY AND THE TRAMP out of the 20th and into the 21st Century. Unfortunately, the script remains stuck in the past. The humor here is explained to death with every joke featuring at least two or three punchlines and characters explaining why things are funny. It may be palatable for the youngest of audiences, but it is painful for adults to sit through.

Then there is the problem of the animals themselves. Anmated films can get away with anthropomorphizing animals but when the CGI becomes as realistic as it does here, it hits the same uncanny valley effect that plagues THE LION KING earlier this year. While real dogs were used in many sequences, the moment they begin to speak or intereact with one another, it adds an awkwardness that reinforces why talking animal movies never really work in live action. Justin Theroux and Tessa Thompson admirably put a lot of energy into their performances but it just isn't enough to make it seem like these animals are real. Even the great Sam Elliott feels a bit wasted as Trusty, one of the standout characters from the classic version.

classic, Family, Charlie Bean, Lady and the Tramp (2019), 2019, Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux, review, disney, Disney Plus

As far as remakes go, LADY AND THE TRAMP features a contemporary cast singing (most of) the songs from the classic movie and revisiting the iconic sequences, especially the romantic Italian dinner scene. While the special effects are all quite impressive, the movie fails to do anything with them. For an hour and forty-five minutes, we follow these dogs as they traverse an impeccably realized historical city but never really do anything in it. Screenwriters Andrew Bujalski and Kari Granlund waste the chance to try something unique and fall prey to the same formulaic remakes that Disney has continued to churn out and fail to justify why this movie was even made.

LADY AND THE TRAMP is another Disney remake that doesn't need to exist. At least you won't have to shell out the additional cost to see it at your local movie theater but that also means families with small children can expect to have this on repeat as soon as today. LADY AND THE TRAMP is not a bad movie but it also is one that never would have come close to the profitability of ALADDIN or THE LION KING, making it a perfect fit for Disney+. It is a cute movie that is absolutely harmless in every way and that may not be a bad thing for the audiences who would be interested in this film. Still, it doesn't have the same magic or energy of the 1955 movie and proves once again that not every Disney movie needs to be retold.

LADY AND THE TRAMP is now available on Disney+.

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Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

5929 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.