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When Disney+ launched in 2019, everyone was excited to finally have the entire Disney library at their fingertips. But like any good streaming service, Disney+ wouldn’t feature only existing content; it would be debuting original content. One of the first two original films debuting on Disney+ was the live-action remake of the animated 1955 Disney Canon film, Lady and the Tramp. Was this remake a good film to christen Disney+ with? Read on to find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The film begins at Christmastime wherein a married couple known to us only as Jim Dear and Darling, played by Thomas Mann and Kiersey Clemons, respectively, are celebrating together. Unlike the animated film wherein we almost never see the faces of Jim Dear and Darling, their faces are never hidden from us in this remake!
Jim Dear gifts Darling with a puppy, something she’s always wanted. Darling names the puppy, “Lady”, and Lady becomes a big part of their life. When she gets older, Lady is voiced by Tessa Thompson.
On this particular day, she’s received her first collar from her owners and goes out in the backyard to show her two dog neighbor friends, Trusty and Jock, voiced by Sam Elliott and Ashley Jensen, respectively. Trusty is an old retired bloodhound whose nose, known as Ol’ Reliable, isn’t quite so reliable anymore. And Jock is a small, feisty Scottish dog like in the animated film, only this time, she’s a girl.
Unbeknownst to Lady, her life is about to be changed in more ways than one when Darling gets pregnant. Lady doesn’t quite understand what having a baby in the family really means especially when her owners put her out in the backyard one day while they’re having a baby shower indoors. She goes over to talk to Trusty about this, but unbeknownst to her, she’s actually talking to a stray mutt known by many names, but we’ll stick with Tramp. He’s voiced by Justin Theroux.
Tramp has lived on the streets for many years enjoying being himself and being by himself, but is often the target of the local dogcatcher who has a Javert-like obsession with him. While evading the dogcatcher, Tramp wound himself up in Trusty’s yard right when Lady has entered her backyard.
However it’s not long before Lady discovers that she’s not talking to Trusty. Tramp begs Lady not to alert her owners because then the dogcatcher would be able to find him. She agrees to this, but insists that he leave immediately.
He leaves, but not before informing Lady that when the baby is born, she won’t be their center of attention anymore and will be abandoned. Lady doesn’t pay heed to his words and it’s not long after that the baby, Lulu, is born. Not long after that, Jim Dear and Darling go on a trip and take Lulu with them. They invite Darling’s aunt Sarah, played by Yvette Nicole Brown, to look after their house and Lady while they’re away. Aunt Sarah isn’t particularly thrilled about this as she doesn’t care at all for dogs and prefers cats, even owning two which she’s brought with her while housesitting. While she’s upstairs, the two cats wreck havoc in the living room while singing a new song, What a Shame, to replace the controversial The Siamese Cat Song from the original film.
When Aunt Sarah sees the mess, she’s convinced that Lady caused it and takes her into town to buy her a muzzle.
The pet shop owner takes off Lady’s collar so that he can affix the muzzle, but Lady runs away after that due to not enjoying being muzzled. She runs into an alley and bumps into the Tramp. They get to talking and Tramp helps her get the muzzle off. He then walks her home, but they take the scenic route since the dogcatcher is still on his tail. As they travel together, Lady and the Tramp begin to bond and Lady gets to experience a life she’s never known before that exists outside of houses and fences.
At the end of the night, they go to the back of a restaurant where the owner and cook, Tony and Joe, played by F. Murray Abraham and Arturo Castro, respectively, treat the canine duo to a spaghetti dinner while serenading them with the romantic Bella Notte. The famous scene where Lady and the Tramp share a kiss while eating spaghetti together is recreated shot-for-shot.
Lady also learns Tramp’s backstory. He used to be a pet to a couple, but was abandoned when the couple had a baby. Ever since then, he’s roamed the streets and lost faith in humans. Soon enough though, the dogcatcher catches up to the both of them, and Lady tries to draw attention away from Tramp, so that Tramp can escape. He does, but the dogcatcher catches Lady instead and takes her back to the pound. While there, she’s incarcerated with a bunch of other stray dogs who are familiar with the Tramp. One of them, Peg, voiced by Janelle Monáe, sings about him in the song, He’s a Tramp. Lady realizes that Tramp has always been out for himself and that he’s probably not going to come rescue her from the pound.
Thankfully, Jim Dear and Darling have returned home and after hearing about Lady escaping, they head to the pound hoping that she can be found there. They take her back home, send Aunt Sarah packing, and Lady tries her best to forget about Tramp and her ordeal. Meanwhile, Tramp realizes that he’s made a mess of things and goes back to apologize to Lady. They make up and Tramp asks her to live in the streets with him, but although she loves him, she knows she has a responsibility and loyalty to her family.
Tramp accepts this and they part ways. However Lady soon notices a rat in Lulu’s room. She tries to head to Lulu’s room, but is put in a closet by Jim Dear who doesn’t understand what Lady’s trying to do. Also, the dogcatcher has arrived at the house expecting for Tramp to show up any minute. Lady barks for Tramp and explains to him the situation. He does his best to evade the dogcatcher and go after the rat in Lulu’s room.
After hearing the ruckus upstairs, Jim Dear, Darling, and the dogcatcher head to Lulu’s room and find Tramp there. Assuming that Tramp attacked the baby, the dogcatcher takes him away in his carriage. Lady is released from the closet but runs after the carriage with Jock and Trusty explaining that Tramp was protecting Lulu from the rat. Trusty’s nose becomes reliable again and they are able to track where the carriage went. Meanwhile Jim Dear and Darling have discovered the rat in Lulu’s room and realize that Tramp was attacking the rat, not Lulu. They also head after the carriage in their motorcar.
They all catch up to the carriage and in order to prevent Tramp from going to the pound, Jim Dear and Darling adopt Tramp to the pleasure of both Tramp and Lady. They become one big happy family with the film ending with Tramp getting his official collar at Christmastime, one year since the events of the beginning of the film.
And that was Lady and the Tramp! And honestly, this was a great film to christen Disney+ with and a lot better than I was expecting! I was pleasantly surprised! Firstly, this film has some of the best cinematography and production design I’ve ever seen in a Disney film! I haven’t felt this blown away since I reviewed Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time!
The acting by most was really good, but especially by Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux! I haven’t felt this much chemistry between a Disney couple in a long time! The only ones I were disappointed with were Thomas Mann and Kiersey Clemons, whom I felt tried their best, but fell short each time.
The direction by Charlie Bean (The Lego Ninjago Movie) and the writing by Andrew Bujalski and Kari Granlund were praiseworthy as well. There were many changes to the story in this remake that I honestly didn’t hate. Some of these included making Jock a girl, changing the beaver in the animated film to a statue instead, expanding the roles of the dogcatcher and the rat, making Tramp less of a womanizer and more of a loner, giving Tramp a backstory, and replacing The Siamese Cat Song with the new What a Shame. The only change I wasn’t really fond of was being able to see Jim Dear’s and Darling’s faces throughout the entire film.
A couple other gripes I have with the film include that the time era the film takes place in seems ambiguous and the CG of the dogs when they speak is distracting. The film appears to take place in the 1950s, but it also has a modern vibe to it and I don’t really know how to fix the CG speaking problem with the dogs. I think it’s something you just have to tolerate.
I hate to “praise” one of these live-action Disney remakes as I’m still against them in principle, but I felt this one was probably the “best” one they’ve done yet! I actually feel that it should have gotten a theatrical release, rather than a Disney+ release. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend checking it out!
So, my final score for this film is 32/35 = 91.43% (A-) !
The next review will be posted on February 15, 2021.