Lady And The Tramp (2020) Review

Lady And The Tramp (2020)
Pampered pooch Lady (Tessa Thompson) thinks she’s got it made, at least until her family grows by one. Replaced in her owners’ affections by the new baby, she accidentally ends up on the street in the company of crafty, scruffy Tramp (Justin Theroux), and discovers there’s more to life than home comforts.

by James White |
Published on
Release Date:

24 Mar 2020

Original Title:

Lady And The Tramp (2020)

As part of Disney’s swathe of animated-to-live-action adaptations, Lady And The Tramp was chosen to skip cinemas and instead ported straight to the company’s streaming service Disney+, to form part of the initial line-up of original films and shows bolstering the hefty back catalogue — though we doubt people were rushing to sign up to the service desperate for another of the company’s conversion jobs. And on the evidence of the movie itself, it’s certainly a minor effort compared to the big-screen likes of The Jungle Book.

Lady And The Tramp (2020)

Which is not to say it’s bad; this is a perfectly charming and warmly entertaining tale that takes the basic bones of the original narrative — perhaps itself a second-tier Disney classic compared to Pinocchio and Dumbo — and gnaws on them to create something that feels different enough. Gone — naturally — are the racially troubling Siamese cats (though there is still a pair of pesky pusses who sing), and without the near-limitless resources of animation, the story feels a little narrow. But the big moments are present (if not always as correct), including the iconic spaghetti scene, featuring bonus F. Murray Abraham as Tony (he’s a little skinnier than his cartoon equivalent). Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux bring some canny canine chemistry to their characters, 
even if they’re slightly hampered by patches of odd-looking facial effects on the real-life dogs and the occasional times the script lets their natural comic ability down in the quality stakes.

The story ambles in an amiable way, trotting on a traditional Disney path of mild peril and gentle laughs.

They’re backed up by a pack of recognisable character voices: Sam Elliott’s leathery tones just feel natural coming from a gruff, forgetful Bloodhound, while Ashley Jensen finds moments to shine in a more limited role as Jock, a chatty West Highland terrier who spends her time as an artist’s model for her eccentric owner. Talking of the supporting vocal cast, credit also to Janelle Monáe’s Lhasa Apso Peg, who belts the film’s trademark tune ‘He’s A Tramp’, and talking of the lesser-seen animals, credit to Benedict Wong, who channels Liam Gallagher as Mancunian Bulldog Bull. The humans are largely set dressing, there to help move the plot along when it’s required. But they’re at the very least adequate, with Adrian Martinez’ dog catcher, who treats Tramp like Jean Valjean to his Javert, a stand-out.

It’s competently directed by Charlie Bean, who comes from an animation background (Tiny Toon Adventures, The Ren & Stimpy Show and The Lego Ninjago Movie). Much like the original, the story ambles in an amiable way, trotting on a traditional Disney path of mild peril and gentle laughs. The tone is a little bit all over the dial in places — especially when the threats ramp up towards the end — but at least there’s no attempt to go overtly dark and gritty. Which is understandable, since watching actual hounds in danger is more jarring than their cartoon counterparts.

Yet this new offering is still better than belated and best-ignored sequel Lady And The Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure. If anyone is considering a live-action take on that movie, step away from the camera.

This Tramp doesn’t really stamp a fresh personality on a story already told well. But it also doesn’t embarrass itself compared to the original and it’s got a shaggy charm of its own.
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