The updated version maintains the heart of the original. The story of two dogs from different sides of the tracks, a pampered American Cocker Spaniel named Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson) and Tramp (voiced by Justin Theroux), a Schnauzer-mutt who lives on the street, is a study in class divides aimed at kid’s imaginations. The plot thickens when Lady’s owners (Kiersey Clemons and Thomas Mann) welcome a baby and, through circumstance, she finds herself on the streets, eking out a life with her new friend Tramp.
This is not your father’s “Lady and the Tramp.” The Disney+ version of is half an hour longer than the original version and comes with a modern sensibility. That means the regressive and racist “The Siamese Cat” song is nowhere to be found (the cats are no longer Siamese and they sing a new tune called “What a Shame.”), irritable Scottish Terrier Jock is now named Jacqueline and Tramp no longer has to defend Lady from a group of wild dogs. She’s more than capable doing that herself. Also, Tramp won’t be defined by the name Tramp. In this outing he has no name. “Who needs a name?” he says. “I’m free to be whoever I want to be.”
To my eye the changes and new additions don’t justify the extended running time but as a family television experience “Lady and the Tramp” offers up several pleasures. Once you adjust to the inherent strangeness of watching dogs speak, the canines hand in good performances (never thought I would ever actually have to write that in a review). They don’t have the range of expression their cartoon counterparts brought to the story but, as we saw in “The Lion King,” the technology that brings them to anthropomorphic life is state of the art if not quite the magical experience you might hope for.