Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure (2001)
Studio Line: Disney

From the impeccable pedigree of Disney's beloved classic Lady And The Tramp comes an all-new story -- Lady And The Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure -- told with the same stunning animation, charming musical style and purebred fun.

Along with their well-behaved girl puppies, Lady and Tramp are busy raising mischievous Scamp -- who's always in the doghouse. Longing for freedom, Scamp ventures far from home and meets a lovely, reluctant stray named Angel. She introduces him to the Junkyard Dogs, led by streetwise Buster. When Buster challenges Scamp to the ultimate test of a collar-free life, Scamp finds himself torn between a world of adventure and love for the family he's left behind.

All-new music and star-studded voice talent headed by Scott Wolf and Alyssa Milano make this irresistible, heartwarming tale a whole new breed of Disney magic.

Director: Darrell Rooney, Jeannine Roussel
Cast: Scott Wolf, Roger Bart-Scamp; Alyssa Milano-Angel; Jeff Bennett-Tramp; Jodi Benson-Lady; Debi Derryberry-Anette; Bill Fagerbakke-Mooch; Barbara Goodson-Darling; Don Knotts-Dogcatcher; Andrew McDonough-Junior; Cathy Moriarity-Ruby; Chazz Palminteri-Buster; Bronson Pinchot-Francois; Mickey Rooney-Sparky; Kath Soucie-Colette
DVD: Wide 1.66:1/16x9; audio English DD & DTS 5.1, Spanish & French Digital Stereo; subtitles none; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 24 chapters; rated G; 70 min.; $29.99; street date 2/27/01.
Supplements: "The Making Of Lady And The Tramp 2: From Tramp To Scamp"; Tramp's Hide And Seek Game; Audio Commentary: Insights From The Filmmakers; 3 Classic Disney Cartoons Featuring Pluto; DVD-ROM Web Link.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: A/B+/B+

While fans of Disney animation haven’t exactly embraced the studio’s “direct to video” (DTV) sequels such as Lion King II: Simba’s Pride and The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, these haven’t been completely excoriated in such circles. This seems to be because of the relatively recent release of the original features; while many love these films, they haven’t quite attained the status of long-beloved classics.

However, Disney have started to treat upon hallowed ground, and fans may not be too happy about it. With Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure, we find the first sequel to a film from the studio’s “golden age”, 1955’s terrific Lady and the Tramp. With this release the flood gates appear to have opened; Disney have already announced a 2002 release for Cinderella II. (By the way, I don’t count Fantasia 2000 in this category because it was more the continuation of a style than an actual “sequel” to 1940’s Fantasia.)

Many fans have reacted very negatively to this trend, and I can’t really blame them. Sequels to more recent films make some sense because so many of the participants can reprise their roles and continue the stories. However, that’s not the case with the older movies, and for the studio to create new extensions of those tales can seem cynical.

Nonetheless, I don’t want to prejudge the product, so I’m happy to give these movies a chance. Frankly, none of the prior DTV offerings have done much for me, so I didn’t expect a whole lot from LATT II. That was a correct assumption, for while the film is generally enjoyable, it’s a fairly lackluster affair that doesn’t remotely live up to the heights of the original.

The events of LATT II take place pretty soon after the conclusion of the first tale. Lady and Tramp have spawned a litter of three females - who strongly resemble their mother - and one male, Scamp, who physically takes after his old man. It seems that he also possesses a similar personality, as Scamp (voiced by Scott Wolf) has trouble remaining within the limits of a proper household. He wants to play and get rowdy, and after one too many punishments, he escapes and pursues life as a free-and-easy street dog.

Scamp meets up with a crew of junkyard dogs led by Buster (Chazz Palminteri), a self-centered tough guy who supports an attitude of one-for-one, all-for-none. Among the other pooches, one stands out to Scamp: cute little Angel (Alyssa Milano), a dog with a past.

A past in which she lived in a variety of homes, that is, and a past to which she’d like to return. She can’t explain to the others that she wants to be a house dog because Buster loathes such pampered pooches and would boot her from the gang if he got wind of that attitude. Eventually she lets Scamp in on the secret, but he doesn’t understand why she’d want to return to such an apparently-suffocating lifestyle when she could be free and easy on the streets.

Of course, Scamp eventually learns his lesson and finds that life as a stray isn’t as much fun as he thought. Some soap opera elements arise along the way before the movie winds toward its inevitable happy ending.

Most recent Disney DTV films offer plots that strongly echo the original offerings but they provide a small twist. For example, in Pocahontas, settlers came to America, while in the sequel, Pocahontas traveled to England. In The Little Mermaid, a mermaid longed to be human, while in the continuation, a human wants to live under the sea.

LATT II doesn’t offer quite as obvious an example of that reverse tendency, but it’s there nonetheless. In the original, a coddled female dog learned what it was like to live on the streets, fell in love, and eventually took home her stud with her. In the sequel, a coddled male dog learns what it’s like to live on the streets, falls in love, and eventually takes home his bitch with him. Both Lady in the original and Scamp in the sequel even depart their households for fairly similar reasons; both felt incorrectly unappreciated and neglected by their owners.

As such, LATT II is little more than a rehash of the first film, and it simply doesn’t match up well with the original. The sequel lacks spark or genuine emotion, and it seems flat most of the time. All of the characters in LATT were charming and full-blooded, but the same doesn’t occur here. From Scamp to Angel through all of the gang, they felt like generic cartoon animals without much real personality.

It doesn’t help that the voice acting fails to make the characters breathe. Both Wolf and Milano are adequate in their roles but no better; they certainly can’t compare with the vivid vocalizations provided for their parents in the original by Barbara Luddy and Larry Roberts. Even a fine actor like Palminteri seems bland here, as his routine appears weak and forced.

The various junkyard dog gang members function a little more successfully. For such small roles, we find a surprisingly high level of talent here, with actors such as Mickey Rooney, Cathy Moriarty, and Bronson Pinchot providing the voices. However, these fairly solid portrayals are balanced by less compelling work from Jodi Benson as Lady and Jeff Bennett as Tramp. They seem very bland and lifeless in the roles and really made me miss the originals.

By the way, despite the claims of IMDB, that was not Don Knotts as the dogcatcher. Instead, we hear Jeff Bennett do a fairly bad impersonation of Knotts. The end credits clearly state this, so I’m surprised it’s fooled so many people.

On the positive side, LATT II offers one of the better-looking DTV programs. As we learn in the DVD’s supplements, the filmmakers had access to the original movie’s art, and they incorporated a lot of that feature’s style into the new one. As such, LATT II provides a surprisingly lush and vibrant environment that looks quite gorgeous at times. Some of the animation is a bit stilted and clunky at times, but the movie nonetheless is a definite step up from the usual DTV fare; it’s a pretty lovely visual experience.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but reflexively compare Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure to the original film as I watched the new one, and the sequel felt lackluster in that regard. On its own, I thought it was a decent little story that lacked much spark but seemed mildly entertaining. The problems evolve when one thinks of the greatness found in the first movie, a quality that is absent here. Ultimately, LATT II is a cute enough film but it remains fairly mediocre as a whole.

The DVD:

Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Disney produce some excellent-looking animated DVDs, and LATT II is no exception - this is a gorgeous transfer.

Sharpness appeared absolutely immaculate at all times. I never witnessed any hints of softness or haziness as the movie always seemed wonderfully crisp and detailed. No jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and print flaws were absent as well; the film seemed gloriously clean and fresh.

As with the first movie, LATT II used a pastel-influenced color design, and the gentle hues seemed exceedingly well-reproduced. It’s a quiet but broad palette that looked very smooth and vivid at all times. Black levels were deep and rich while shadow detail seemed appropriately dark but never excessively heavy. Ultimately, the DVD presented an exceedingly-satisfying visual experience.

The soundtracks of LATT II were also solid, though the gentle nature of the film meant the audio didn’t quite match up to the highs of the picture. As with many recent Disney DVDs, LATT II offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. To my ears, I could detect no differences between the two mixes; they seemed identical.

Although the track occasionally showed some surround usage, for the most part the audio stuck strongly to the forward spectrum. Across the front channels, the sound presented a fairly broad array, mainly due to the stereo music. Effects provided some general ambiance but weren’t terribly involving. The rear channels came solidly into play on a couple of occasions - the train’s passing and the fireworks - but otherwise they simply bolstered the music and effects with light reinforcement. It was not a showy mix, but it seemed fairly appropriate for the material.

Audio quality appeared excellent. Dialogue always seemed crisp and natural with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were quite clean and realistic, and when appropriate, they showed some solid dynamics. Music could have provided a little more depth to its low end, but the score and songs largely sounded clear and bright with acceptably appropriate bass. Although the soundtrack lacked ambition, it still provided a good auditory complement.

Even though Lady and the Tramp II is one of Disney’s direct-to-video pieces, it offers a nice little package of supplements. First up is a running audio commentary from director Darrell Rooney, co-director and producer Jeannine Roussel and animation director Steve Trenbirth. All three appear to have been recorded together for this screen-specific track.

Although I love animation, I must admit that many of the commentaries that accompany these kinds of features are fairly dull, and the track for LATT II follows that pattern. The filmmakers provide a basic discussion of some of the challenges that went into the creation of a sequel to a beloved classic, but for the most part, we learn rudimentary details of the animation process and we hear a lot about the story. Many commentaries become general reiterations of the film’s story, and that occurs here as well. Ultimately, the track revealed some interesting information but it seemed a bit dry.

During this commentary I noted one problem with the character design of Angel. In the movie we learn that she’s lived with five different families. It seems extremely unlikely that one dog would get the boot from so many homes due to the factors listed - moves, allergies, children - without any faults on the part of the dog, but that’s what we’re supposed to believe; at no point are we told that Angel possesses any flaws that let to her removal from these homes.

However, one factor that we specifically learn in the commentary is that Angel’s supposed to be a puppy. By definition, that makes her less than a year old. The poor pooch has been through five families in less than one year? I suppose that’s possible, but it seems to seriously stretch credulity. This is one of the first times I’ve learned something from a commentary that caused the film to make less sense to me!

Next up is a breezy featurette called “The Making of LATT II: From Tramp to Scamp”. This 16-minute and 35-second program mixes interview snippets with a few of the actors and the animators plus movie clips and some behind the scenes material. The latter offer the show’s best components as we get to see some bits of Walt Disney and other archival footage. Unfortunately, these glimpses are maddeningly brief, as the program zips rapidly from topic to topic. Still, it gives us a decent enough glimpse of the process behind LATT II - especially when it came to the challenge of reprising the spaghetti scene - and the vintage clips are fun, so the brief show deserves a look.

One staple of many Disney “Gold Classic Collection” releases is the inclusion of vintage cartoons that connect to the film’s subject, and LATT II is no exception. Here we get three shorts, all of which star Pluto: “Bone Trouble” (eight minutes, 40 seconds; 1940); “Pluto Junior” (seven minutes, five seconds; 1943); and “Pluto’s Kid Brother” (six minutes, 50 seconds; 1946). All three are enjoyable, but only “Bone Trouble” seemed particularly special; it provided a rollicking good time as Pluto outsmarts another pooch. In any case, I appreciated the inclusion of the cartoons, as they definitely added value to the collection.

“Tramp’s Hide and Seek Game” has you seek out various characters from the film. You approach them in groups of three and get a prize when you locate all of the triad. For example, one contest has you discover Angel, Scratchy and Tramp. You only need to find one of the trios to get the reward, which isn’t much of one; you just get to see one of the Pluto cartoons available elsewhere on the DVD. Since there’s no special treat for success, we have to depend on the quality of the game itself, but that’s not a good thing. The contest is nothing more than lame trial and error, and it lacks any fun.

As is often the case with Disney DVDs, LATT II opens with some promos for other product. This disc begins with ads for upcoming video releases of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 102 Dalmatians, The Emperor’s New Groove, and The Book of Pooh. In addition, previews for The Hunchback of Notre Dame II and Cinderella II: Dreams Come True appear in the “Sneak Peeks” section. One can easily skip the ads at the start of the disc with a press of a button, so I don’t mind their inclusion here.

Lastly, we get a DVD-ROM Weblink. I thought this was a pretty solid little site. It offered some interesting facts about the film and should be of interest to anyone who liked the movie.

All in all, I thought that Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure was a bland and lifeless sequel to a classic animated film. Nothing about LATT II seemed overtly terrible, but it suffered from a serious case of the ordinaries and rarely betrayed any spark or verve. However, the DVD is excellent, as it provides a fantastic picture plus good sound and a surprisingly rich complement of extras. Lady and the Tramp II is probably a film that will be most satisfying for the little ones since it’s cute and innocently charming; adult animation fans will be much less satisfied with it.

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