The Only Way to Watch Disney+'s 'Lady and the Tramp' Is with an Actual Dog
It has recently come to my family's attention that one of our little Norwich terriers Duncan is a particularly attentive TV viewer. It's impossible to know exactly what's going on in his dog brain, but Duncan seems to actually watch, and he reacts with particular verve whenever an animal pops up on the screen. There are certain commercials featuring other pups that set him off. He growled in recognition at Toothless when my folks watched How to Train Your Dragon, and hissed at Scar in The Lion King remake. So when I realized that the launch of Disney+ would bring a live action Lady and the Tramp that I could watch with Duncan by my side, I decided it must be done. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Truly, the only way to watch Disney+'s Lady and the Tramp is with a pooch by your side for an added bit of entertainment.
Lady and the Tramp, directed by Charlie Bean, is the first one of Disney's remakes to go straight to its streaming platform, and like the theatrical releases that came before it, it is largely pointless. Despite a screenplay co-written by mumblecore pioneer Andrew Bujalski, it follows almost exactly the same beats as the animated film. Thankfully, the Siamese cats are no longer racist caricatures, but aside from that it's the Lady and the Tramp you remember, only with real dogs. Lady (Tessa Thompson) is a pampered spaniel whose life is thrown into disarray when her owners have a baby. She gets lost, meets Tramp (Justin Theroux), and they share a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Unlike The Lion King, which did not use real lions in its production, there are actually four-legged actors portraying the roles here. But, no, they don't actually talk. Their mouths move thanks to some CGI animation that looks incredibly silly and a little freaky.
Now, here's where I admit that Lady and the Tramp holds a special place in my heart. My parents have always had dogs, and once I was given the privilege of naming one, I called her Lady after the movie's heroine. But, as an adult, I must recognize that it's a pretty thin story as far as Disney productions. Sure, it has its share of genuinely terrifying moments -- that rat! -- but it's nonetheless a slight fable of two dogs finding love and a home. Even the songs are minor, though I did appreciate Janelle Monáe's cover of "He's a Tramp."
But really, who cares about my opinion -- what did Duncan think? Again, I can't claim to read his mind, but his ears perked up the minute a fellow canine first appeared in the form of puppy Lady. When the adult version emerged, he positioned himself closer to the screen. He seemed a little perturbed when the fictional dogs started speaking human words, as if he was aware how unnatural it was. Midway through, he started to get a little bored and went to his toy box to get a squeaky reindeer plush. My attention was also diverted as we played a quick game of fetch. Admittedly, I was also growing weary of the plot. Still, Duncan's interest returned during the big scene at the pound. It almost seemed as if he was humming along with Monaé. He did not appear to like the bulldog voiced by Benedict Wong. Bulldogs are not his thing. (FYI, our other terrier, Dylan, could not have cared less that this was all playing out. He was asleep for most of the movie.)
We had to turn off the movie right before the ending to go to dinner, so, as of right now, I don't know how he would have reacted to the big happy finale. But I'm still curious of Duncan's thoughts on what he did see of the film. Did he think Sam Elliott was perfectly cast as the Bloodhound Trusty? Did he find it weird that Justin Theroux sounded a lot like Seth Rogen? Did he enjoy the appearance of Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham? These are the mysteries I will have to contend with for the rest of my days. But here's one thing I can impart to you, dear reader: If you must watch Disney+'s Lady and the Tramp, watch it with a dog. It's ten times more entertaining.