Judge Bill Gibron wishes this unnecessary sequel had been neutered.
It's a dog's life…and film.
One of the wisest things that newly appointed Head of Animation John Lasseter did when he re-joined Disney (after the mega-merger with Pixar) was disband the company's direct-to-DVD sequel sweatshop. You know, the division where such beloved classics as Bambi, 101 Dalmatians, and Beauty and the Beast were given unnecessary, poorly prepared updates? Beginning back with 1994's The Return of Jafar and still showing minor signs of life today (Who do you think greenlit all those Tinker Bell films?), the House of Mouse destroyed its artistic reputation by proving that no considered classic was above being bastardized and commercialized. Eleven years ago, Lady and the Tramp saw its brand bungled with the release of the thoroughly unnecessary Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure. Focusing on the cur couple's son and his desire to become a "wild dog," it's mindless marketing piffle. It's also more than enough evidence that Lasseter did the right thing when he came into power.
You see, Scamp (voiced by Scott Wolf, Party of Five) hates the pampered life he shares with his dad Tramp (Jeff Bennett, Bolt) and mom Lady (Jodi Benson, The Little Mermaid). Punished for his playfully destructive ways, he eventually runs away from home and joins a pack of mangy junkyard dogs. During one of his "tests" to prove his mantle, Tramp is almost netted by the dogcather. When his friend, Angel (Alyssa Milano, Hall Pass) is caught, he does something daring to rescue her. This puts him in good graces with lead dog Buster (Chazz Palminteri, The Usual Suspects). Eventually, Scamp and Angel fall in love, and she can't believe he wants nothing more to do with his family. When he finds out his father used to be a member of this collection of street hounds, he changes his tune. Unfortunately, a prior vendetta with Buster means the entire Tramp family is in peril…
…or something like that. Lady and the Tramp II is so slight and so simplistic in its delivery, it defies easy description. It's like an animated TV series cursed with non-entertainment elephantitis. As it plods along, marching from mandatory plot point to mandatory plot point, we can see the suits behind the scenes dictating subtext and ersatz educational lessons. "Make sure to show how gangs are bad," one laments. "Let them know that there's no place like home," shouts another. As the committee creates the scenarios, the pencils at Disney's now defunct Australian animation studio prove that nothing celebrates old Disney cartooning better than the slipshod attempt to recreate same. Yes, we get a similar kind of character design, but the overall look is soft, cheap, and lacking any real depth. Entire coffee table books have been built out of the House of Mouse's meticulous attention to backdrop detail. Here, there's a distinct feeling of being in Who Framed Roger Rabbit's Toon Town on a particularly foggy day.
But the biggest bungle remains the narrative. We don't really have anything that would interest adults here. This is pure pee wee leaguing, the anklebiters primer for learning about life. The lessons are legitimate, but they're aimed at an IQ barely capable of considering long division. Scamp is supposed to suffer—if ever so slightly—so that he discovers how great it is to be a pampered pooch with doting parents. He also wins the girl, sings the songs, and samples the slumdog life before bouncing back on all four feet…sorry, paws. Yes, the ancillary elements provide some minor moments of amusement, but overall, Lady and the Tramp II just can't compare to the original. Maybe it's not supposed to. One is certain it wasn't supposed to underwhelm like it does.
At least the Blu-ray treatment is terrific. The colors literally pop as the 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen image flashes across the screen. The details are definitive, and the overall look at least mimics the old Disney design. On the sound side of things, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio surround track delivers crystal clear dialogue, some interesting immersion, and the standard-issue, superficial studio songs. As for added content, we are treated to a complementary featurette which discusses the making-of, a commentary with more of the same, and, thankfully, three old-school Pluto shorts. or something like that. or something like that.
One day, we may again see something as pointless as Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure come out of the Disney direct to DVD (or whatever format) factory. Until then, let's just hope Mr. Lasseter is happy with his heaping helpings of fairy dust and leave it at that.
Guilty. As pleasant as a slobbering dog's saliva-laden lick.
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