For a number of years starting in the mid- to late-1990s and going through the mid-2000s, Disney churned out an incredible number of direct-to-video sequels. Two new Lion King movies, two Cinderella sequels, a Tarzan sequel, a couple of Little Mermaid sequels, and more all appeared. It had a tendency to give one the feeling that the company was attempting to make a quick profit by trading on the good will and fond memories of their audience. Among this spate of releases is 2002’s Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure. Those who believe that Disney was putting out product solely to make money and with less of a concern for quality need only point to this particular sequel to help make their case.
The original Lady and the Tramp was released in 1955 and is a brilliant tale of two dogs from opposite upbringings falling in love. It is a classic tale of true love, just with dogs. First, there is Lady, who lives in a nice house in a nice neighborhood but ends up in trouble when her masters have a baby. Then there is Tramp, a dog from the wrong side of the tracks who scratches out a living any way he can. By the end of the movie the two are back in Lady’s house, in love, and with several puppies of their own.
That is where the new movie opens – the one boy puppy that Lady and the Tramp had, Scamp (voiced by Scott Wolf), doesn’t like his lot as a house dog with a good life. He wants to lead the life his father led, he just doesn’t know that his father led such a life – he thinks his father has always been a house dog.
In a series of all-too-obvious and all-too-mundane events, Scamp finds himself on the outs with his family and winds up falling in with an ex-friend of Tramp’s, Buster (Chazz Palminteri, and Buster’s minions including the new love of Scamp’s life, Angel (Alyssa Milano). By the end of the film (and I really don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying this), the norm is reestablished and they all live happily ever after (because they didn’t make a Lady and the Tramp III).
As presented, the whole thing fails to work, but the real question is why. Not to put too fine a point on it but the story is obvious and boring, the characters bland, the animation unimpressive, and the songs downright bad. The problem is less a failure of one aspect of the film then an across the board disappointment.
Chief among these issues is the fact that the characters from the first movie are, in terms of their actions and attitude, wholly unrecognizable. If he wasn’t called “Tramp,” one wouldn’t be wrong to think that this is a different dog entirely. Why he won’t tell Scamp where he came from is never satisfactorily explained. As Tramp spent a long time in his old life and seemed to enjoy many aspects of it, his unwillingness to discuss it with his offspring feels terribly out of character. One is forced to assume that Tramp acts as he does here because if he acted as he does in the first movie, there could be no sequel… or at least not the sequel the filmmakers wanted to make.
Many a Disney film has managed to vastly improve its story with great music. Here, instead, the music only brings the whole thing down more. In particular, Scamp’s song, “World Without Fences,” where he expresses his desire to roam free disappoints greatly. The tune is not catchy, the words not memorable. It is subpar for a Disney song. The accompanying visuals show the yard fence disappearing and Scamp out in the wild, but the way it’s carried off is terribly confusing – it is unclear exactly what is taking place with the fence disappearing the first time and then once it does the viewer is just left wishing that Scamp has run off and that the movie (which has just begun) can end. Worse, during and following this song, the time of day (during the real, not imagined bits) seems to change from day to night to day and back again. Time hasn’t passed, it just looks like time of day wasn’t fully considered.
Beyond that, the animation, particularly the backgrounds, do not appear all that impressive. Even on Blu-ray, the details are not what one would expect from a theatrically released feature. The colors are bright and brilliant and there is nary a bit of dirt nor a scratch to be found (one would be shocked if there were), but characters are not as detailed as one would like either. More disconcerting than any of that, however, are the bits of computer generated animation (most of the film is hand-drawn) – they are terribly jarring when seen alongside the regular animation. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is of the same quality. Everything is appropriately leveled and the surrounds are certainly used for music and the occasional effect, but it isn’t the sort of full, lush sound design that a theatrical release would offer up.
The bonus features on this new release include a commentary track, a puppy trivia track, sing along songs (the notion of wanting to sing any of these songs is incredible), a making of piece, and three Pluto shorts. The making of featurette is actually relatively interesting, but it doesn’t get at the as many details as one would hope (nor does it address any of the issues one has with the final product). There is also a DVD version of the movie.
Above, I have criticized the film for it’s simplicity, it’s not presenting a theatrical-quality film on many levels. It is true that this was not intended to be a theatrical film, but Lady and the Tramp II was made to stand side-by-side with a great theatrical release. It therefore must work well alongside said release and it most certainly does not. It is a disappointing feature across the board, and one of Disney’s direct-to-video sequels which is better left forgotten.