While we can’t go to the cinema ESP’s film critic Gavin Miller is staying home and checking out the latest films being streamed…
Disney used their ‘latest animation turned live-action’ film off the conveyor belt as an exclusive launch vehicle for their new Disney+ streaming service instead of going straight to cinema – and it has proved to be a shrewd move.
Because even though it’s gone directly to TV, the production values from the House of Mouse are still all there to be counted – and this doesn’t disappoint.
It may ultimately sit in the middle ground of Disney live-action remakes – better than Dumbo, not as good as Beauty and the Beast, and on about a par with the likes of Aladdin and The Lion King – but with impressive visuals and casting it definitely ‘barks’ more than it ‘whimpers’.
This classic story (for those who don’t know) tells the romantic tale of pampered uptown Cocker Spaniel Lady (voiced by Thor: Ragnorak star Tessa Thompson) and street-wise downtown Schnauzer-mutt Tramp (The Girl on the Train’s Justin Theroux), who cross paths in early 1900s New Orleans.
Kind but blinkered Lady has been pampered by her owners – Jim (Thomas Mann) and Darling (Kiersey Clemons) – for years, and has made friends with her neighbours’ dogs, scatty Scottish Terrier Jock (Ashley Jensen) and grizzled Bloodhound Trusty (Sam Elliott).
But her life is turned upside down when Darling has her first child and the couple’s focus turns to their new offspring, which inadvertently sets off a chain of events that leads to Lady ending up in the company of Tramp – who spends most of his time wandering the streets in search of food and causing mischief for dog catcher Elliot (Adrian Martinez).
After Tramp comes to her aid, the pair have a night of fun and frolics, and the once uptight spaniel – now seeing what the ‘other side of the tracks’ has to offer – forms a bond with the likeable hustler mutt, culminating in that classic ‘spaghetti and meatballs kiss’ scene, with Oscar-winner F Murray Abraham (Amadeus) starring as the iconic Italian restaurateur Tony.
The rest is pretty much history, and this does the material justice, despite – like with most films of this ilk – a little bit of charm and magic getting lost in translation. But for a so-called TV movie that didn’t get a theatrical release, this does a pretty darn good job, and as a ‘freebie’ on the Disney+ service the quality is still there to be seen.
The special effects and voice acting are generally top notch – definitely compared to some ‘dog’ movies where the mouth work can be sub-par – and even though the film’s palette does go inexplicably dark (not in plot, just unnecessarily dimly lit) at points, there’s still more than enough of the likeability factor to make this very worthwhile family entertainment.
Like spaghetti and meatballs this serves up a veritable feast – and if you’re a Disney fan you’d be barking mad to miss it.
Cast: Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux, Sam Elliott, Ashley Jensen, Benedict Wong, Janelle Monae, Clancy Brown, Adrian Martinez, Thomas Mann, Kiersey Clemons, Yvette Nicole Brown, Ken Jeong & F Murray Abraham
Running Time: 1 Hr 43 Mins
Director: Charlie Bean