Review: Lady and the Tramp (2019)


Lady and the Tramp (2019)

Directed by: Charlie Bean | 111 minutes | adventure, comedy | Original voice cast: Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux, Sam Elliott, Ashley Jensen, Janelle Monáe, Benedict Wong, Clancy Brown, Nate ‘Rocket’ Wonder, Roman GianArthur Irvin, James Bentley, Jentel Hawkins, Ara Storm O’Keefe, Aemon Wolf O’ Keefe | Actors: Thomas Mann, Kiersey Clemons, Rose, Monte, Yvette Nicole Brown, Adrian Martinez, F. Murray Abraham, Arturo Castro, Ken Jeong, Curtis Lyons, Kate Kneeland, Darryl W. Handy

In the series of Disney’s live action remakes, it is 2019’s turn for ‘Lady and the Tramp’ (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson and Himilton Luske, 1955). After nearly seventy years, Disney is making a new version of this film without the controversial scene of the Siamese cats. Not only does it manage to remove the racist undertones of the original film, but also to show a film with a diverse cast. Moreover, the story is still close to the old and the film retains the beloved atmosphere that was set up in the 50s.

This new version of ‘Lady and the Tramp’ closely follows the story of the original which centers on the life of the American cocker spaniel, Lady (Tessa Thomppson). The dog is given as a puppy by Jim Dear (Thomas Mann) to his wife, Darling (Kiersey Clemons). The three of them seem to live a perfect life, until Darling becomes pregnant with their first child. Lady increasingly feels pushed aside. When she accidentally meets Tramp (Justin Theroux) and he warns her that a baby will take her place, his prediction seems to soon come true. Her owners temporarily leave her care to their Aunt Sarah (Yvette Nicole Brown), who doesn’t like Lady. After an accident, she takes her to the vet for a muzzle. However, Lady escapes and reconnects with Tramp. He then helps her find her way back to her owners.

From the start, the film manages to maintain the atmosphere of the original, and thus to honor it. The typically kitschy interior of Lady’s house is especially well taken over. Not only does the film have a diverse cast, including a mixed couple, the song of the Siamese cats has also been replaced. This scene in which two Siamese cats present a very problematic image of an Asian stereotype has been turned upside down with an all-new song: ‘What a Shame’ sung by Nate Wonder and Roman Gianarthur. Also, these cats are not Siamese, but of the Devon Rex breed.

Unlike the original, ‘Lady and the Tramp’ also pays more attention to rescue animal shelters. Many of the dogs in the film were taken from the shelter and all adopted before the film was finished. In the film, this theme is most apparent with Tramp’s character. In the original, he was portrayed as a conqueror of women, leading the cartoon to focus on dog breeding. In this film adaptation, however, the focus is more on his life as a loner: he even gets a backstory. From this perspective, his relationship with Lady comes into its own. Moreover, the theme of class differences comes to the fore. Lady is the rich privileged dog with a collar and Tramp lives from day to day, constantly surviving and constantly looking for food.

The new ‘Lady and the Tramp’ is a welcome adaptation of an already beloved classic. It has a good mix of its own new material and honors the old with even an adaptation of the problematic scene of the two cats. Finally, most of the dogs in the film are a combination of live action and CGI. This is so well done that it is barely noticeable. So don’t let the CGI put you off watching this movie. But if you’re still in doubt: the fact that F. Murray Abraham has a guest role and gets to sing the famous ‘Bella Notte’ is perhaps a bonus.