Hey, Plotaholics! Shane here.
As anyone on the planet knows, Disney+ launched this past week. You can expect more coverage on that front from The Plotaholics in the coming days, including a special Plotaholics LIVE on Saturday (11/16; 2:00 PM EST).
One of Disney’s original offerings is the latest in the company’s ever-expanding catalog of live-action remakes, Lady and the Tramp. The film was one of the more highly-anticipated of the non-Star Wars, non-Marvel Disney+ originals, and I’m here to say that it delivers.
Coming off of this summer’s live-action remakes of Aladdin (HOORAY!) and The Lion King (could not finish), I was wary of this retread. The promo shots were beautiful, and the dogs that were cast were appropriately adorable or scruffy. I suppose I was worried it would suffer the same fate as The Lion King‘s beautifully-rendered yet incapable-of-showing-appropriate-levels-of-human-emotion animals. I worried that Lady and Tramp would be too real. If that makes sense.
Allow me a tangent, if you will. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why The Lion King (2019) was so off-putting to me. I like to believe I am capable of looking past my own nostalgia and consuming a piece of media independent of my past experiences with previous version. I like to think I can consume a new iteration of something old without the old thing tainting my experience.
So, I wasn’t ready to blame my general disdain for the new The Lion King on my own childhood attachment to the original. After all, I tended to enjoy myself pretty often. But every time I was ready to “like” the new Lion King, something pulled me back. I suffered intense bouts of love/hate whiplash.
But I think I figured it out! My enjoyment of The Lion King was always at its best when the new movie did something a little different. And my hatred of it always flashed hottest when those animals started singing.
See, people have developed a spoken language that animals are not capable of imitating. Their little animal mouths (for the most part) cannot move in the ways that our mouths move. So when Simba sings “I just can’t wAAAIITT to be king,” his mouth cannot make the requisite shapes when he’s rendered as a photo-realistic cat. His lips cannot pucker. He cannot open his mouth wide enough to earn the emphasis of some of the lines he sings.
So, when Disney made the choice to go photo-realistic in these movies, they made the animals look weird when they talk but ESPECIALLY weird when they sing. IT just looks…dumb. And my brain can’t get past it.
Lady and the Tramp‘s photo-realistic rendering of the singing and talking dog and cat faces is nowhere near as off-putting for some reason. It legitimately might be that the budget wasn’t as high, so they couldn’t look as “real.” Thank god (or whoever).
Lady and the Tramp is nothing special, but it is fun. The voice work from Tessa Thompson (Lady) and Justin Theroux (Tramp) breathes life into the titular characters while Sam Elliot’s turn as Trusty the bloodhound is a welcome surprise. The supporting cast is full of fun choices, and everyone holds up their end of the story.
The real MVP of this movie, though, has to go to Adrian Martinez for his depiction of Elliott the dog-catcher. If you’re the type of person who longs for the day of villains being irredeemable, evil monsters with no humanizing back-story or sympathetic characteristics, this guy is for you. It’s been a long time since a villain has drawn this strong of an emotional response from me. He is very fun (and easy) to hate.
All-in-all, the world didn’t need a Lady and the Tramp remake, but if we were going to get one anyway, this one will do just fine. The most important update is probably the most obvious: The problematic (and racist) “Siamese Cat Song” has been replaced by something…else.
So, get your kids or whoever might enjoy something like this and gather round the ole stream-tube for a trip down Memory Lane. It might drag a bit at times, but it’s nothing that a shot or two won’t cure.
Plotaholics Rating: 2 Shots
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Ha! Love the bit about the shot at the end. We don’t get the Disney+ thing in the UK until March of next year and I haven’t seen Lady and the Tramp because I don’t think it had a cinema release. I liked the new Lion King okay, but it doesn’t compare to the original.