‘Lady and the Tramp’ Movie Review: Court Her and Hooch

With live-action remakes of The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King, Disney was remaking stories that could previously only be told in animation. With Lady and the Tramp there feels like less pressure.

Lady and the Tramp | Disney

Live-action animals could not do everything Rudyard Kipling wrote, although Disney made a terrific live-action adaptation with non talking trained animals in 1994. Still, Jon Favreau used visual effects to make photorealistic animals interact with Mowgli in his adaptation. The Lion King couldn’t be done with trained animals in 1994 and visual effects weren’t able to convey everything the Disney artists could animate in the ‘90s. These live-action adaptations have been polarizing, although that hasn’t hurt any of their box offices.

Yes, Lady and the Tramp is a beloved animated classic, but it’s not like they couldn’t make live-action movies with dogs before. They have, including Disney’s live-action 101 Dalmatians in the ‘90s. If anything, the live-action Lady and the Tramp harkens back to days of classic Disney live-action animal films, and the dogs are adorable.

‘Lady and the Tramp’ keeps it simple

Jim (Thomas Mann) gifts his wife Darling (Kiersey Clemons) with the puppy, Lady (voice of Tessa Thompson). Lady gets along with her neighbors Trusty (Sam Elliott) and Jacqueline (Ashley Jensen) but never knew of the outside world until the Tramp (Justin Theroux) runs into the yard next door. The Tramp shows her life as a street dog and the fact that Jim and Darling are having a baby makes Lady consider it. 

Trusty and Jacqueline in Lady and the Tramp
L-R: Trusty and Jaqueline in Lady and the Tramp | Disney

It looks like real animal shenanigans with trained dogs. If they resort to CGI dogs it’s really hard to tell. I mean, real dogs won’t eat spaghetti no matter how well trained they are, but aside from necessarily animated bits, it looks like real animals. They make the mouths move when they talk but we’ve seen that since Babe. 

Lady and the Tramp: Peg and Bull
Peg (Janelle Monae) and Bull (Benedict Wong) are more dogs in Lady and the Tramp | Disney

The dog catcher (Adrian Martinez) chases are exciting. You feel real danger as dogs navigate real environments to evade humans. There are probably more hidden visual effects than the viewer realizes, but that’s the point. Lady and the Tramp never breaks the drama of dogs in love, whereas The Lion King got so in love with its live-action rendering it slowed down the drama.

What’s new and what’s the same in ‘Lady and the Tramp’

The 1955 animated Lady and the Tramp is not quite as fresh as The Lion King was so it’s harder to tell how close the live-action adaptation is. It seems to be the gist of the movie, with iconic moments like the spaghetti dinner preserved.  The live-action version has about 30 minutes added to its runtime, but the original was light at 76 minutes. Perhaps because you can stream Lady and the Tramp at home on Disney+, any added material doesn’t feel like filler. Or maybe it’s just good. The filmmakers deserve more credit.

Lady and the Tramp in the moonlight
Lady and the Tramp in the moonlight | Disney

The Siamese cats become Tabbies so that means they have a new song because you can’t have Tabbies singing, “We are Siamese if you please.” You probably don’t want anyone singing about being Siamese anymore, but at least the characters didn’t get cut out like the crows in Dumbo. The cats are just as destructive and manipulative in this version though. The live-action Lady and the Tramp still has “He’s a Tramp,” “La La Lu” and “Bella Notte.” 

Lady and the Tramp
Lady and the Tramp | Disney

The city in the animated film was based on Marceline, Missouri. This looks like early 20th century New Orleans, although it was filmed in Georgia. The costumes reflect a bygone era, although the language doesn’t feel period appropriate. This isn’t a historically detailed version of animals of the past. It’s just relatable animals and their owners don’t have cell phones (or microchips).

Tale as old as time

Even though that’s a song from a different Disney movie, Lady and the Tramp is just as timeless a tale. The Tramp isn’t exactly a Beast, but it is about the coming together of two characters from different worlds, and when they both let their guards down they realize they’re more alike than society would have them believe. 

Along with that comes the danger of when they fall in love, society isn’t just going to let them be happy. Everything good is a fight. In dogs’ cases, Tramp is always going to be behind the eight ball. Maybe he can keep one step ahead of the pound, but probably not forever. Lady has kind owners but even they are susceptible to judgments and misperceptions. 

Lady and the Tramp
Lady and the Tramp | Disney

Disney offers versions of these stories where the protagonists can overcome these obstacles. There are plenty other incarnations where they don’t, like Shakespeare or the Ron Perlman/Linda Hamilton Beauty and the Beast series. Hopefully versions like Disney will inspire people to try hard enough in real life to make things better, even when it’s hard.

Usually when a new content creator emerges, there’s a learning curve before they can start crafting quality films. Disney+ comes out of the gate (or bandwidth?) strong with Lady and the Tramp. It probably helps that they’re Disney. They have experience making movies and TV shows prior to launching their own service. Now you can get their studio quality movies right in your home.