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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure
A Doggone Shame
In their latest direct-to-video sequel, Disney reaches farther back into the film vault then ever before, to the 1955 animated classic Lady and the Tramp.
Picking up the summer after the Christmas finale of the first film, Scamp's Adventure is set in the same New England town, now preparing for a Fourth of July celebration. We are reintroduced to Lady (voiced by Jodi Benson), Tramp (Jeff Bennett) and their human family, along with their own litter of pups: three precocious daughters and their rascally son, Scamp (Scott Wolf, who fails in his over-earnest attempt to sound young). Scamp definitely takes after his father with his rambunctiousness, but he possesses a yearning to break free of his humdrum life as a "house dog", thus that none-to-subtle Independence Day setting.
After he runs away, Scamp hooks up with a motley crew of junkyard dogs and discovers the joys (no baths!) and pitfalls (Barney Fife, Dogcatcher) of living on the streets. He is guided on his new "adventure" by Angel (Alyssa Milano), a cute and spunky girl pup who secretly yearns to have a human family of her own; and by a doberman unfortunately burdened with the cutesy name "Buster" (Chazz Palminteri). This self-proclaimed "president of the junkyard" turns out to be a bitter rival from Scamp's father's past, a past unknown to the little pup.
While this is a follow-up to the original story, don't expect to see a lot of the stars from the first film. Scamp (who headlined his own successful newspaper comic strip in the late 50s) is the star of this one, with his parents merely supporting characters. In fact, Lady's role in the film is so small, it's practically a cameo. Tramp fares better as far as screen time goes, but he does so with a complete change of character, transformed from fun-loving mutt to overprotective Parent with a capital "P". (Apparently it only takes six months to take the "junkyard" out of the "junkyard dog".)
(This parental overprotectiveness seems to be a recurrent theme in Disney sequels; both Simba and Ariel suffered from this same unfortunate personality trait in Lion King II: Simba's Pride and The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, respectively. One could expect the same from new parents Esmerelda and Phoebus in the upcoming Hunchback of Notre Dame Il as well.)
Other returning characters appear for brief turns in the sequel: next-door neighbor dogs Jock and Trusty, Siamese cats Si and Am, and Italian restaurateur Tony, who again feeds two budding puppy loves (this time Scamp and Angel) a moonlit spaghetti dinner in an unfortunate and misguided attempt to recreate one of the most utterly romantic scenes in motion picture history. Sadly, it only dilutes the memory of the original.
(Peg and the other dog pound mutts are nowhere to be seen ... uh, tell the kids they were adopted by good families ...)
The old favorites are instead overshadowed by the so-called "Junkyard Society" dogs. While they are supposed to be streetwise and menacing, they only come off like a bad road show version of the cast of Oliver and Company. This feeling is heightened by the fact that they are all voiced by an odd assortment of less then A-list actors such as Mickey Rooney, Cathy Moriarity, Bill Fagerbakke and Bronson Pinchot.
While not what one would consider a musical, the first film did include songs (by Peggy Lee and Sonny Burke), such as the classic "Belle Notte", which is subjected to a torpid adult contemporary pop interpretation by Joy Enriquez and Carlos Ponce over the end credits. (Why they chose two Latin singers for a song in Italian is another question.) But apparently songwriters Melissa Manchester and Norman Gimbel have Broadway aspirations from the sounds of their contributions to this film. Overproduced musically, lyrically simple-minded, the songs are not helped by their presentational treatment in the film. (I half-expected the characters to bow to the audience at the end of each number.) Scamp even gets to warble his own version of the Disney ballad (the proverbial "I Want" song) in the not ironically titled "World Without Fences".
(Although there is an added bonus for long-time Disney fans during this number. The dream sequences are animated in the style of artist Eyvind Earle, who contributed the tapestry-like backgrounds to Sleeping Beauty.)