The straight-to-Disney+ remake of Lady and the Tramp recaptures some of the animation’s magic visually, but stumbles on the substance that made it a classic.
It seems like nothing is off the table when it comes to Disney’s retellings of animated classics. The latest to receive the controversial treatment is Walt Disney’s canine-driven love story, Lady and the Tramp. Full disclosure, my interest in a Lady and the Tramp reimagining was nonexistent. I just haven’t been the biggest fan of Disney’s live-action outings. Still, every movie deserves a fair shot, and I am a fan of the original. The good news is, some of the original’s magic is present here, aesthetically. The bad news? There’s no substance to compliment the style.
Let’s start with the positives; the movie looks phenomenal. The sets are gorgeously detailed, and the use of lighting and color add a sense of magic to a real-world setting. Secondly, the new renditions of the classic songs are beautifully done, the standout being “La La Lu”, performed here by Kiersey Clemons as Darling. When it comes to the visuals and music, this is where that famous Disney magic shines.
Speaking of Clemons, the human actors are perfectly serviceable here. Darling (Clemons) and Jim Dear (Thomas Mann) are likable as a starry-eyed young couple. Alternatively, the flamboyantly pompous Aunt Sarah (Yvette Nicole Brown) is a lot of fun in what little screen time she has.
Notable by their lack of praise is the voice cast, which leads me to the “missteps” part. Lady and the Tramp stumbles in some areas, one of which being the Air Buddies-esque “talking dog” schtick. For the first few minutes of the movie, the animals are silent. As a dog lover, Lady’s portrayal as an actual puppy is widely charming. We lose a lot of that charm when the dogs are suddenly cracking wise like Hollywood celebrities. It’s jarring, a little annoying, and remains as such for the entirety of the movie. The script’s barrage of unfunny jokes doesn’t help.
Stronger performances could have undercut this issue. At the very least, the talking dog scenes would have been mildly entertaining. We instead get Tessa Thompson as Lady and Justin Theroux as Tramp. Though they try their best, their generic deliveries are reminiscent of every mediocre romantic comedy. But that’s nothing compared to Ashley Jensen’s loud, obnoxious take on Jock the Scottish Terrier.
The dog-catcher character (Adrian Martinez) is another issue. Acting as the movie’s answer to Cruella De Vil, he exists purely to add action and suspense. The problem is, these over-the-top attempts at drama don’t fit within the framework of this simple story. Now I love me a good overarching villain, animated or otherwise, but Lady and the Tramp did not call for one.
In the year of her majesty 2019, I don’t feel Lady and the Tramp is the worst of Disney’s three remakes. Still, the movie’s redeeming qualities are too minimal to warrant a recommendation. You’re better off watching (or rewatching for the 50th time) the original 1955 version.