Lady and the Tramp Movie Review

Today's kids may find this hard to believe, but Disney used to pride itself on making heartfelt and heartwarming, nee family style, films. Most people under 20 only know Disney as the place where they used to make hand animated films but now churn out the equivalent of CGI drive-in swill that froths at the mouth to meet only the basest of denominators. (Yeah, I'm talking about you, Chicken Little.)

So, I guess the best way to say it is: Disney used to be like Pixar.

And back when Disney was really good, when their films were hand crafted (like animated postcards from beautiful places) and reveled in a child's delight in life, it was the 1950s. The '50s, for most Gen X'ers are looked upon fondly as a pre-post-Apocalyptic wonderland where people were who they said they were and no one seemed to ask any questions. Sure, that's the stuff of paranoia today, but back in The Day - and the '50s were indeed "The Day" - being normal was the coolest thing you could be. Ah, the simplicity of picket fences, slow edits, manners and... well, the rest of it is worth tossing.

Back then a Disney film was an event that the whole family could appreciate. Of course, this is before the theatre chains were run into the ground, when going to the movies was a cultural event, not just the latest whiz-bang marketing idea by some suit eager for you to watch "The Twenty" prior to a parade of lame previews. (Man, oh man, do I sound bitter!) Today, Disney films, from the '50s and earlier, appear in selected batches, like fine vintages, for the greedy DVD public to consume in great gulps. (But not Song of the South, no sirree! You can sing "zip a dee do dah" 'til the cows come home.)

Most kids probably wonder when the shooting will start or when the leads will show their udders and make fart jokes, but quaint films like Lady and the Tramp were once considered cutting edge entertainment. The story is simple: two dogs fall in love. Well, not quite that simple. Lady (voiced by Barbara Luddy) is a spoiled Spaniel, used to a life of pillows and treats, Tramp (Larry Roberts) is a mutt with an attitude, and these star-crossed lovers were simply meant for each other in the greatest of Hollywood romance traditions. Their courtship does not involve any butt sniffing or leg humping. No, these two swoon over each other under a full moon and over a plate of pasta. The nosing of the meatball must surely rate as one of the most quixotically romantic scenes in history.

Along the way audiences are treated to all manner of anthropomorphic pets: the wicked and shockingly xenophobic Siamese cats, cuddly puppies, squatting street dogs. It's all in the name of fun, but the animation hasn't been equaled in over a half-century. There is a meticulousness to the line work and movement that is simply breathtaking. You can see, right there, someone's sweat making that dog or that cat come to life. The paint isn't embedded in the image, it is the image, swirling like a museum piece come to life. Technically, Disney has created nothing finer.

Disney may have fallen a long, long way from it's heyday as the purveyor of children's dreams (maybe it started with Captain Eo?) but revisiting their bread and butter early 2-D animated films is likely to reawaken an already frazzled faith in human imagination. To wit: my young daughter delighted in Lady and the Tramp, she cried during Chicken Little. My work here is done.

A lush DVD includes a restored film, deleted sequences, countless making-of featurettes, and fun stuff for the kids.

Cast & Crew

Starring : Peggy Lee, , Larry Roberts, , Bill Baucom, , , , George Givot, Dal McKennon


Comments

Lady and the Tramp Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: G, 1955

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