Like a last minute savior that helps a protagonist or, more in this case, a bad situation in multiple films throughout the decades, Disney+’s live action remake of LADY AND THE TRAMP swoops in and saves 2019 from a shutout year of bloated, bombastic, and God awful live action remakes of Disney classics. “But Zach, The Lion King wasn’t a live action re…” FUCK YOU, yes it was. And it was a shot by shot boring disaster if there ever was one. I’ll pick apart that and the two other abominations later in this review, but I am happy to say that Lady and the Tramp doesn’t suck, and I was fully expecting it to be a piece of…pun intended…dog shit. But don’t get too ahead of my words, this isn’t the end all be all greatest live action remake we’ve ever gotten (that still goes to Jungle Book), but considering the drivel I’ve had to sit through this year, my expectations at rock bottom, the fact that I even give this a solid recommendation should be a shock to anyone’s ears. You could definitely watch this with family, your young ones, or friends and definitely have a Belle Notte.
This film seems like it was destined to actually hit theaters before Disney+ was announced, and then someone in charge said, “oh shit, we don’t have enough original content at launch, let’s just debut that on there as Lady and The Tramp doesn’t have enough brand recognition like Lion King, Dumbo, or Aladdin.” I would’ve rather this been in theaters and the other three kicked to a dark desolate corner of Disney+, never again to see the light of day, because to me, this thing was delightful. Another warning for all you review reading warriors, I don’t remember much of the original cartoon. I know that the Tramp gets Lady in trouble and the spaghetti kiss eating dinner scene with the famous song with the accordion…and that’s about it. So that might cloud my judgement a bit. Although I didn’t remember much of Dumbo, and that was the worst of the three other remakes earlier this year. I’m off point, the reason why this movie seems like it was destined for theaters is because it looks really nice. The old time-y feel, the classic Victorian (is that right? fuck it, I’m no architect) houses, the bright and colorful cinematography, the fact that they used REAL FUCKING ANIMALS instead of just CGI generated catastrophes, it just felt theatrical and nice.
You know the story, a cocker spaniel named Lady is adopted by a couple and is treated royally, but then the couple have a baby and Lady feels like she is being ignored. Enter the Tramp, a dog out on his own, always chased by a dog catcher, living the free life, that teaches Lady a few things while falling in love with her. But can Lady really live his free yet dangerous life, and what about Tramp’s past, is he too rambunctious to truly be with her? They use real life dogs to do the walking, running, and stunts, but use some CGI magic to make their mouths move while talking with a couple of eye brow and pupil alterations for more expressive facial expressions. I thought it would bother me, based on the fact that they did it in The Lion King back in July, and it turned the once expression filled cartoon characters into mindless CGI emotionless robots. Thankfully, it is to better effect here, almost seamless in fact, and I think the true difference is the fact that it was on real animals. Just that little extra touch that makes a huge difference, not relying on complete CGI creations. It was nice to just slide into. Plus they do a lot more movement with the expressions which helped. Would the movie had worked as well if they were still talking to each other, but it being more like a “Look Who’s Talking” expressionless situation with no mouth moving of any kind? I honestly don’t know. For kids, who this movie was made for, probably not. They needed the CGI enhanced faces here and I’m glad it wasn’t overdone.
The problem with Dumbo was that while not being a shot for shot remake, and it told a different tale, it was too dark, dour, and boring, not a kids film, yet not an adult one. Basically it had no target audience, and nobody cared about the story either. The problem with Aladdin is that it felt too over the top and fake, messing up classic songs with rap, a very underdeveloped villain, and the fact that every single God damn location looked like a movie set, nothing really feeling like it was shot on location. It just seemed all fake. Lion King’s problem was that it was a shot by shot photo realistic remake that added nothing new to the story, while scaling back the effectiveness of the characters with all the animals seeming like they all had the same personality because of their expressionless faces and un-enthusiastic voice acting. The Lady and the Tramp, even though having most of the same story beats as the original, feels as if it wasn’t just made as a product for people to consume more product, if that makes sense. It feels like it was filmed back in the day, with classic buildings and homes, the human costumes, etc.; it just all felt authentic. And it changes up some of the story beats without completely copying it but also without going too far out of left field with the source material. The movie isn’t a complete musical, only having 3 little numbers, doesn’t change them up too much, and they are only there to mildly enchance the story. Bella Notte, the best sequence in the classic cartoon, is done exceptionally well here. Not too over the top, and sung pitch perfect…and thankfully Will Smith doesn’t come out and start adding rap words to the score.
The voice acting from all the dogs is perfect, especially the two leads, voiced by the lovely Tessa Thompson and dashing Justin Theroux. They actually VOICE ACT, breathing life into the characters, instead reading off the paper like most of the cast of the remake of The Lion King seemed to do. Sam Elliott also steals his scenes as Trusty, the older next door neighbor dog. And the human acting is decent as well too, Thomas Mann and Kiercey Clemmosn plays the titular couple that owns Lady, with small supporting roles by Ken Jeong and Yvette Nicole Brown. The latter two almost took me out of the film because I thought it was going to be some sort of Community reunion, but thankfully Ken Jeong isn’t his usual self and Yvette Nicole Brown isn’t her usual self either. They play characters for once. The only character I thought was a bit off, odd, and took me a couple of times out of the film was the dog catcher. He just seemed a little wooden yet…creepy. Like a dog catcher pedophile. I don’t know how to describe it, you’ll see what I mean when you watch it. If there was any character that needed to be a bit over the top to sell that part of the movie it should’ve been him, and that’s the only part that didn’t truly deliver.
But yes, it was nice to have a good Disney+ “original” movie on the streaming service at launch. I also saw the other Disney+ movie available at launch Noelle (which I will have a review up shortly for) as well, but I prefer this film, and wanted to have my first Disney+ movie review with a film I could solidly recommend to everyone (and not just keep singing The Mandalorian’s praises ((but please check that out too)). I’m glad it swooped in and save the day, I was completely dreading being bored and hated it and adding it on my top ten list of the year, next to the other three live action remakes that are currently on it and will probably still be on it come the end of next month. This was a remake that didn’t feel rushed or manufactured, but made with care. Definitely more of a lady, and luckily not at all near a Trump…whoops, I mean Tramp, TRAMP…or did I?