Lady and the Tramp is the latest Disney classic to receive the remake treatment, following last years Aladdin, The Lion King and Dumbo live-action adaptations. The film is one of the ‘exclusive’ original properties launching the Disney streaming service, Disney+, when it releases here in the UK on Tuesday, 24 March.
Directed by The Lego Ninjago Movie‘s Charlie Bean, Lady and the Tramp centres on pampered American cocker spaniel, Lady (Tessa Thompson) as she finds herself ignored by her humans as they look after their newborn. Following a misunderstanding thanks to two pesky cats, Lady ends up on the street, saved by stray rogue Tramp (Justin Theroux). As the two embark on multiple adventures, usually winding up resident dogcatcher (Adrian Martinez), they fall in love. But will their different outlooks on life keep them apart?
Sticking true to the original, this adaptation keeps the original commentary on class divide and the powerful importance of home and a family. Clocking in at almost half an hour longer than the 1955 original (76 minutes), the film features a much more relaxed pace, allowing for more adventures, including a charming riverboat ride, strengthening the bond between Lady and Tramp. This longer runtime also helps flesh out Tramp’s backstory, as we delve into his heartbreaking past via flashback. But don’t worry, the iconic Spaghetti scene is still present and thankfully just as cute! The only thing that doesn’t quite sit with the rest of the film is the occasional, out of place humour, particularly Ken Jeong’s doctor.
Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux voice the utterly adorable (and real!) rescue dogs, Rose and Monte, with bags of enthusiasm and charm. The central pairing of Kiersey Clemons and Thomas Mann as Lady’s humans are endearing but a bit wasted, particularly Clemons who only briefly sings “La La Lu”, as she was fantastic in Hearts Beat Loud. Supported by an impressive supporting voice cast including Sam Elliot’s bloodhound Trusty (who is the real MVP!) and Ashley Jensen’s Scottish Terrier Jock, along with Janelle Monáe and Benedict Wong as Tramp’s stray acquaintances. However the villain of the tale, dogcatcher Elliott (played by Adrian Martinez), just doesn’t feel threatening enough.
What’s more convincing about this live-action adaptation is the fact that a lot of real dogs are involved, however they’ve obviously CGI augmented their mouths to move, which, like 2019’s The Lion King, which does take some getting used to. Some dogs definitely pull it off better than others, and unfortunately, even though she’s the lead, Lady isn’t one of them. Sticking out like a sore thumb however are the fully CGI’d cats and puppies, which are at times pretty terrifying! Creepy cats aside, the film features a number of high production values, including impressive period costumes and vehicles, along with a soulful Savannah setting and jazzy background score. Don’t be too excited about the songs though, other than “Bella Notte” the rest feel a bit jarring (“He’s a Tramp”) and forgettable (“What a Shame”).
Disney’s Lady and the Tramp is a perfectly watchable, family-friendly adaptation with charming canine stars, but like 2019’s Lion King, it’s lacks the magic and artistry of the hand drawn animated original. If you’re looking for a four-legged friend outing, I’d personally revisit the brilliant emotional journey of the three pets travelling to find their owners in Homeward Bound or the 1996 live-action adaptation 101 Dalmations.