'Lady and the Tramp's Diverse Voice Cast Is One of the Best Things About the Live-Action Remake
With the advent of Disney+, it's never been easier to bury your head under a massive pile of nostalgia. And while there's plenty of tried-and-true timeless flicks to check out, Disney saw fit to revisit one classic animated film: 1955's Lady and the Tramp, which now has a real life remake currently streaming on the Disney+ platform. That means in addition to actual cute, fluffy dogs running around being romantic and adorable, this Lady and the Tramp remake has a new voice cast that's earning some praise from critics.
The remake follows many of the same beats as the original, telling the story of Lady (Tessa Thompson), a cocker spaniel who is adopted by a couple trying to conceive a child. She's initially offered all the love and care a puppy could want, but eventually, after the couple manages to have a kid, she finds that she's slipped a bit lower in their priorities, and after an unfortunate incident with a pair of conniving cats who frame Lady for some trouble she didn't commit, she runs away, losing her collar and winding up lost on the streets of New Orleans (which is a change from the original's midwestern setting). That's where she meets Tramp (Justin Theroux), whom she falls in love with on her journey through the city as a runaway.
In the original film, Tramp was voiced by Larry Roberts, and Lady was voiced by Barbara Luddy, who also starred in a few Disney animated classics like Sleeping Beauty, where she voiced Merryweather, one of Aurora's fairy godmothers, and several Winnie the Pooh films where she voiced Kanga, Pooh's kangaroo friend.
In the remake, Thompson and Theroux are joined by Sam Elliott (The Big Lebowski, A Star Is Born, Roadhouse), who voices a bloodhound named Trusty, Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange, The Martian, Prometheus) as Bull, an English bulldog, Ashley Jensen (The Lobster) as Jackie, a Scottish terrier, and Janelle Monáe, who voices Peg, a pekingese. Monáe even recorded new music for the soundtrack, including a cover of "He's a Tramp," which was originally sung by Peggy Lee in the 1955 animated film.
Variety praised Monáe's rendition in their review of the film, saying it imparted a "soulful hangdog swagger" to the original. The rest of the voice cast earned similar kudos from critics, with MovieWeb's review saying the supporting dogs "almost steal the show." TheWrap called Thompson and Theroux's performance "a delight," and IGN said they "imbue their canine characters with personality and charm." Mashable praised Theroux specifically, saying he was "utterly winning" in his role, and that Lady and Tramp "have more chemistry than some fully human couples."
That chemistry plays out in a scene carried over from the animated film: the iconic spaghetti dinner scene where Lady and Tramp share a bit of pasta with one incredibly long spaghetti strand, which serendipitously connects the both of them for a kiss — or, rather, something closer to a dog nose boop. Thompson commented on that scene in a chat with the New York Daily News, saying, "When I (first) saw that spaghetti scene, I definitely thought a lot about romance. I think it was my first engagement with what a date looks like or something, even on some subconscious level as a kid."
The live-action cast is also garnering praise from critics, with much of that praise focusing on their diversity. Indeed, the voice cast's diversity reflects the real-life faces seen on screen, with Kiersey Clemons playing Darling opposite Thomas Mann's Jim Dear, turning the all-white couple from the original into a married interracial couple. Arturo Castro also appears as the waiter who serves Lady and Tramp their memorable dinner while singing "Bella Notte," and Yvette Nicole Brown plays Aunt Sarah, the owner of the two meddlesome cats who get Lady banished from the house.
With that much star power, Lady and the Tramp seems like a film worth putting on your watch list as you make your way through the wealth of nostalgia available on Disney+.