Woof. So, I have kind of formed a reputation of being “hard” on kids movies. I deny this, as I critique kids movies the same way I critique any movie. To me, that is fair. When a kids movie is good, I call it good. When it’s bad, I call it bad. When it is Playing with Fire, I chuck it into the trash heap where it belongs. There are plenty of kids movies I enjoy. Recently, I enjoyed Moana and Toy Story 4. Same goes for the Disney live-action remakes. For the most part, I have not enjoyed them. However, I really liked the live-action versions of Aladdin and Cinderella. I don’t go into any kind of movie expecting to dislike it. Which brings me to Lady and The Tramp. I didn’t like it. Here’s why.
There is nothing abundantly wrong with the direction by Charlie Bean. It looks a lot like Mary Poppins Returns that came out last year. Which means it looks good, but it also can’t shake off the feeling that it’s all so sterile looking. There really is anything artistically enticing for the audience to take in. Because it is funded by Disney, you can see the production value. But every shot feels calculated and a tad lifeless. Especially in certain sequences where a really strong visual director could have come in and done something striking. It just comes off like he had a checklist from the studio and he dared not stray from the checklist. It felt more like watching a product than watching a movie a lot of the time.
It is a bit tiresome to continually say that these have the exact same plot as the animated original. However, even though I haven’t seen the original in over a decade, I know this is beat for beat the original movie with very minor changes. Just like the direction, there is no chances taken with the story. I do think they relied a little too heavily on the dog catcher plot and those sequences drug the movie out and made the movie rather dull. That being said, if one is a fan of the original movie and just wants to see an updated version of it, this is serviceable.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Tessa Thompson once again brings a beacon of light to a movie in desperate need of some of it. She is on her game and does a good job here. Conversely, Justin Theroux remains an uncharismatic leading man who brings nothing of substance to the role. The romance falls flat because Thompson is the only one who is putting in the work. She might as well be acting opposite an actual dog. Sam Elliot also brings a couple mild chuckles to the film that were greatly appreciated. I don’t know where else I would talk about this, so I will bring it up here. Besides, the spaghetti eating scene, the only two other scenes that stuck out to me from the original was the Siamese cat song and when it suddenly turned into a horror film with the rat chase at the end. In this version both are altered. It’s not surprising that Disney decided to shy away from the whole Siamese cat racism the original had. But instead of doing something that would spark a discussion and admitting fault with what they did in the past, they ignore it entirely. They even go as far to change the breed of cat. Something about that feels so disingenuous that it's kind of disgusting. Obviously, I am not in favor of racist portrayals being put to screen. But, for Disney to twiddle their thumbs and pretend as if it didn’t happen and play all innocent is just gross to me.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score is fine. It is weird when 20-30 minutes in, it tries to add a musical number. For nothing in the movie gives one the vibe that one is watching a musical. So when the baby is born and the parents start singing it was a bit jarring. To go back to the Siamese cat situation, the cats that take their place also have a musical number and it is terrible. Not only is it just boring, it is also mixed terribly. I had a hard time understanding what they were singing. With Disney being the company it is, there is absolutely no excuse for that to have been in the final cut. It should have gone through another round of audio editing before hitting Disney+.
Think less Babe: Pig in the City and more like Cats & Dogs when it comes to how the animals speak in this. Initially, when the audience first sees Lady, it’s actually hard to tell if it’s CGI or a real dog. Which is a positive. However, once those dogs started talking it instantly became nightmare fuel. Especially when Tramp would talk, he just talks with his dead eyes staring square into the audience's soul. Which really hammers home just how pointless this really is. It looks better when they were 2D animated and looks creepy when they were live action. So, instead of being taken in with the film, I was just sitting there thinking, why?
Am I being too hard on this considering it is made for children to enjoy on the opening day of Disney+? I would argue I don’t think so. I think kids movies should be held to the same standard films made for adults are. Just because a movie is made for kids, does not mean the filmmakers get a pass for taking it easy. Just like many live action Disney remakes, there was a ton of potential to do something new and creative with Lady and The Tramp. Instead they opted for the easy and safe route and to me that is a creative graveyard. The prime example of this is in the rat chase climax scene. In the original it sticks with the audience because it is legit scary in how it is shot, animated, and scored. In this one, it’s lit too bright eliminating its chance of it being scary or tense. The score is unnoticeable. The CGI dog and rat are laughable looking. It isn’t even a fraction as memorable as the original scene, but with the right visual sensibility it could’ve been. If you have young kids and show them this, you won’t be miserable. However, its a film with very little bark and absolutely no bite.