Lady and the Tramp

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Lady and the Tramp
dir Charlie Bean
prd Brigham Taylor
scr Andrew Bujalski, Kari Granlund
voices Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux, Janelle Monae, Sam Elliott, Ashley Jensen, Benedict Wong, Clancy Brown
with Kiersey Clemons, Thomas Mann, Adrian Martinez, Yvette Nicole Brown, F Murray Abraham, Arturo Castro, Ken Jeong
release US 12.Nov.19,
UK 24.Mar.20
19/US Disney 1h43

thompson theroux monae

Lady and the Tramp
Disney's beloved 1955 canine romcom gets the live-action remake treatment, and the pleasant surprise is that director Charlie Bean opts to use actual dogs rather than animated ones alongside the human cast. Otherwise, it's fairly relentless in its silly approach, opting for slapstick and sweetness. But there are moments of solid humour and action, and the romance itself is adorable even if the film feels overly soft and squishy.
In a Victoriana-fantasy version of Middle America, Jim (Mann) gives his wife Darling (Clemons) an adorable cocker spaniel puppy, who is named Lady and grows up to be a pampered pooch (voiced by Thompson). Meanwhile at the train station, stray mutt Tramp (Theroux) scams for food while dodging the dogcatcher (Martinez), warning Lady that she'll lose her status when her masters have a baby. Sure enough, a series of misadventures send her into the streets, where Tramp rescues her and they head out on an all-night odyssey. But the dogcatcher is on their trail.
Comparisons with the original are unfair, but the changes made in the script are relatively minor. The live-action approach requires oddly animated doggy mouths, and it also puts more emphasis on the dogcatcher's relentlessly violent efforts to capture Tramp, even though there's never much threat that something truly nasty will happen. The Siamese cat sequence is mercifully revamped, and some elements are tweaked for today's sensibilities, including some female empowerment. Even so, this is about goofy comedy and puppy love.

Human performances are fairly broad, keeping with the film's smiley style. Mann and Clemons are almost as cute as the dogs, while Martinez and Brown (as Darling's harsh aunt) add sparkle in the thankless villain roles. But of course this is the dogs' show and, in the absence of plot surprises, at least there's some snappy dialog. Elliott and Jensen steal the show, while both Thompson and Theroux add understated personality. But a bit more energy would have helped.

As with other Disney remakes, some songs have been ditched or reworked. Most recognisable are the classic serenade Bella Notte and the soul riff He's a Tramp. There's a new bluesy number for the mischievous cats (sung by Nate Wonder and Roman GianArthur), and the familiar storyline gets a few new angles as it progresses to the necessarily contrived and rather scary finale. Overall, adults will find the odd line to chuckle at, but young children will simply love it.

cert pg themes, violence 2.Apr.20

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