This Disney+ remake has howls, but it’s not always Belle Notte.
The new Disney+ platform has been released, despite its internet crash set-back, and one of the new movies it has released is the live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp.” It has some talented voice work and a little bit of faithfulness, but unfortunately, it isn’t as delightful or adorable as the 1955 animated classic.
You know the story of the pampered cocker spaniel named Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson), whose owners Jim Dear (Thomas Mann) and Darling (Kiersey Clemons) have a new baby, and she worries about being replaced. And you also know the street dog Tramp (voiced by Justin Theroux), who’s always dodging the dog catcher (Adrian Martinez).
Their stars cross as Tramp finds his way in her neighborhood, and Lady is forced to given a muzzle by Darling’s pompous Aunt Sarah (Yvette Nicole Brown). They spend the night together, have their iconic spaghetti dinner, and are forced to split up, when the catcher comes.
Thompson does a much better job providing Lady’s voice than she did with her awkward character in “Men in Black International,” because her age and energy gives the character youth. But I wasn’t that enthralled with how the Tramp is portrayed as a disgruntled street dog, where the animated version gave him charms and consideration. I’m thankful at least Theroux does his best, and he’s given a backstory.
The movie’s supporting voice cast is eclectic and charming. You have Ashley Jensen providing the female vocals for the Scottish Terrier Jock, who’s the model for her owner’s paintings and photography. Sam Elliott plays the old bloodhound Trusty, who isn’t that bright. Janelle Monae has languorous sparks as the Pekingese named Peg. She’s the African-American Peggy Lee, here. And Benedict Wong is flexible as her English bulldog friend Bull.
Directed by Charlie Bean (“The Lego Ninjago Movie”), this “Lady and the Tramp” remake is also respectful to ethnic groups in its early 20th century New Orleans setting. We have Ken Jeong cameoing as a doctor, F. Murray Abraham and Arturo Castro as the Italian chefs singing “Belle Notte,” Martinez as the catcher, Clemons as Darling, and Brown as Aunt Sarah. And the Siamese Cats aren’t stereotypically asian, but voiced by brother musicians Roman GianArthur and Nate “Rocket” Wonder.” Ergo, the casting isn’t offensive or degrading.
The filmmakers used real dogs to portray the characters, while CGI effects were provided for aid. At times, they look adorable, while other times, they look a bit shabby.
There are also some laughs and tears, but obviously, I prefer the animated over this one. It doesn’t have that Disney magical sparkle that made the dog cartoon a classic, nor the imagination of Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book” or Bill Condon’s “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s more consistent and obvious than it is romantic.
The voice work is fun, and the music (with songs provided by Monae and Clemons) is radiant, but it still doesn’t compare to the animated classic. We’re all hoping to see Lady and the Tramp’s puppies at Christmas, but we don’t get to see them.