Lady and the Tramp is directed by Charlie Bean, and is a remake of the 1955 animated film. The movie stars Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux, Sam Elliott, Kiersey Clemons, Thomas Mann, and F. Murray Abraham. The movie is streaming exclusively on Disney+.
Darling receives a cocker spaniel puppy for Christmas from her husband, which she names Lady. But Lady’s life is thrown into disarray when a baby is born; and she finds herself in the company of the Tramp; a stray dog wandering town surviving and doing things on his own terms; including outrunning the dog catcher, much to the dismay of the other dogs in Lady’s neighborhood. Will a romance surface between the two dogs from different worlds, or will their differences prevent it from ever happening?
Disney is having a field day with these live action/CGI/photorealistic adaptations of their older animated films. This new take on Lady and the Tramp; streaming on the new Disney+ service, is the latest in a continued line of them. This new take on the tale has a talented enough cast; but drags on far longer than the original, and its tone and priorities are all over the place. It doesn’t help that the movie seems intent on pushing political correctness harder than any movie of recent memory; and with horribly inconsistent results.
The film at least has a great looking atmosphere with its early 1900s settings. The dogs are adorable, and for the most part, the casting works. There are fewer musical moments than in the original film, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If nothing else, no one can deny the movie does atmosphere well; and the voice casting for the title pair is pretty solid. We even get veteran actor Sam Elliott voicing bloodhound Trusty!
Not quite like the original
Sadly though, the overlong running time and the inconsistent focus derails the movie. The canines are cute and fun to watch; but the emphasis on action and slapstick humor in places caused this version to lose the heart the original had. Much like the 2019 version of The Lion King; this photorealism technique has a long ways to go; and it can’t come close to telling this story in as powerful and emotional a way as the animated original. The result is something which seems like it would appeal more to young children than anyone else. It’s also not helped by the fact that it tries to turn the dog catcher into a larger character than the original; who just isn’t all that interesting to begin with.
The movie also ditches the “dogs point of view” element from the original. Remember how the original movie barely showed the human’s faces since the dogs couldn’t typically see them; or the showdown between Tramp and the rat? You don’t get any of that here. Everything feels far more generic.
One of the biggest issues with the movie is its insistence on pushing an agenda of political correctness; even at the expense of historical accuracy in the country. Okay, to be fair; I don’t at all blame Disney for ditching some of the worst stereotypes the original movie had; including the slanted-eyed Siamese cats; and a Borzoi and Chihuahua who literally only existed to be one-joke Russian and Mexican stereotypes, respectively. I don’t blame the company for ditching these elements; but they seem intent on revising history in the process, with human minorities all around the town. Even Darling (the mother/wife) and Aunt Sarah are African-American in this version; despite the fact that it’s set in times long predating commonplace interracial marriage; (was it even legal when this movie is set?); and a largely ethnically-diverse nation.
Strangely, many stereotypes from the original actually remain; including blatantly Italian foodservers and the character Jock’s overly Scottish accent (the character’s gender oddly changed, but this stereotypical aspect did not). If Disney was so intent on an ethnically diverse cast; why not just change the setting of the story to modern times, where this sort of thing is far more common?
Maybe just stick to the original
Lady and the Tramp has ambition; but it fails to accomplish what the original did, yet runs half an hour longer. The charm of the original is replaced by an agenda pushing political correctness; inconsistent tone, and an emphasis which is all over the place. Stick with the beauty of the hand-drawn original from 1955. This new take will be a fun one-time watch with the kids, but not much else.
Rating: Two stars out of four.
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