The Great Disney Blogathon: Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure (2001)
|August 25, 2014||Posted by Jess under Cartoons, Disney, Movies, Musicals, The Great Disney Blogathon|
After a few sequels that were way better than I expected them to be, it was inevitable that I’d eventually encounter one that is just as mediocre as I expected. Enter Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure, an utterly by-the-numbers direct-to-video nothing.
First, some history, because Scamp’s actually got a pretty interesting one! Though unnamed in the first movie (he’s the mischievous one who looks like his father), Scamp was clearly something of a breakout character. Just four months after Lady and the Tramp was released, Scamp got his very own newspaper strip, which ran for thirty-three years. He also starred in two separate comic book series through 1979, a 15-issue run and a 45-issue run. That’s so much! Like, Scamp was clearly a genuine star, and during the height of Disney comics too. The internet authority on Disney comics, the I.N.D.U.C.K.S., lists about 15,000 comics appearances. I mean, none of that has much bearing on this particular movie, but I still think it’s really interesting, and it made Scamp clearly the go-to protagonist when it came time to think up a sequel to Lady and the Tramp.
Now for the movie itself. The plot, in a nutshell: Though his three sisters are well-behaved to a fault, Scamp longs for the messy, rough-and-tumble life of a “wild dog” (read: stray). After some low-level misbehaving, he’s chained up in the yard and scolded by Tramp, when some stray dogs pass by who are clearly having a grand old time tormenting the dogcatcher. Dazzled by their tough leader Buster and the coquetteish Angel, Scamp breaks his leash and follows them to their junkyard home.
Buster puts Scamp to a series of hazing-esque “tests” to see if he’s worthy of joining the gang, but Scamp’s courage, plus a lot of dumb luck, impresses the other dogs – especially Angel. Meanwhile, he discovers that Tramp was once considered the greatest wild dog ever, until he gave it all up for Lady – and that Buster, who was Tramp’s BFF/partner/dog-husband or something I don’t know, now hates Tramp.
After a daring escape from a train, Scamp and Angel share a love duet, but when Angel, who longs for a home of her own, realizes who Scamp’s father is, she’s furious that Scamp gave up a loving family so cavalierly. She thinks he should go home, but he insists on taking Buster’s final test. Meanwhile, Buster has figured out the relationship between Tramp and Scamp, so the next day at the town’s Fourth of July picnic, he tells Scamp to steal his own family’s roast chicken. Scamp does, Tramp gives chase, and there’s a confrontation in which Scamp finally chooses Buster over Tramp, much to Tramp’s (and Angel’s) disappointment.
Angel berates Scamp for turning his back on his father. Annoyed, he reveals to Buster that she wants to be a hated “house dog,” so she quits the gang. Buster takes Scamp’s collar, then sics the dogcatcher on Scamp in revenge for…something, but Angel sees Scamp being taken away and runs to get Tramp. Scamp’s locked up with a huge, vicious dog that hates him because of one of the earlier “tests,” but Tramp sails in at the last minute and they fight him off together; then Angel saves father and son from the dogcatcher. After returning to the junkyard to fetch his collar and humiliate Buster, Scamp returns home with Tramp and Angel, and Jim Dear, after a lot of literal puppy dog eyes, agrees to adopt Angel. Seven dogs is too many, people.
Look, this movie isn’t terrible. The animation is pretty good, at least on the dogs – Buster in particular is really powerfully, viciously rendered. (The humans, particularly Darling, are pretty half-assed, though.) Some of the songs are pretty catchy, and I’m charmed by the attempt to situate this movie in the turn of the century by giving the junkyard dogs a ragtime number. The two ballads absolutely drip with shmaltz, but at least there’s no random, anachronistic country western for no reason.
But there’s just nothing noteworthy about the movie either. It feels very much like it was written for children – the kind of writing for children that assumes that you need to aim for the lowest common denominator, while falling back on rehashed plots (I liked this one better when it was The Lion King II) and stock characters (I liked this cast better when they were in Oliver and Company). The sequels I’ve praised all found an emotional hook, something from the original movie to hang the emotional weight of the sequel on: Bambi’s mother’s death, the pathos of Peter Pan’s existence, Cinderella finding her self-worth. This has no hook, and the most successful aspect of Lady and the Tramp – the sense that the characters are really and truly dogs at heart, with their own doggy logic – is abandoned.
Instead, the closest this movie comes to an emotional arc is a tired old “fathers and sons don’t understand each other!” shtick. But having Tramp be the character who represents law and order and domesticity makes absolutely no sense.1 It would be more logical to have Scamp butting heads with Lady – but then the writers would’ve had to give a crap about a mother/son relationship, and that was clearly impossible. Even when Angel tells both Tramp and Lady that Scamp’s in trouble, only Tramp comes with her. We don’t get to see Lady’s reaction until the next morning, when the menfolk return home. You’d think she would’ve tried to lead the humans to the pound, just like she did last time, but eh, women, who cares, right?
And speaking of lousy portrayals of female characters…well, my notes on Angel say “WHY IS SHE A SEXY BABY DOG,” so yeah, that’s it in a nutshell. Alyssa Milano delivers so much of Angel’s dialogue in a “sexy” voice, and, like, the original movie had a dog prostitute, I’m not bothered by the sexy dog characterization, but she’s a puppy. She’s clearly supposed to be Scamp’s age, and Scamp is only half Tramp’s size, so why is she purring all her lines? Why is she constantly rejecting romantic overtures from Buster, who is old enough to be her father? (I know dogs don’t care, but if you’re going to anthropomorphize them this much…) Why do she and Scamp have a love song? THEY ARE CHILDREN.2
The rest of Angel’s characterization is just as lazy and infuriating. As mentioned, she’s the point of a love triangle…but one that never pays off narratively, so why introduce it at all? The plot would be literally the same if Buster wasn’t attracted to her…but then I guess the writers couldn’t use the shorthand of a half-assed love triangle to build Buster’s resentment of Scamp. And, of course, she longs for true love and domesticity, like girls do. (She’s also one of only two female characters in the pack, as opposed to five male ones – six counting Scamp. And as mentioned, Scamp’s sisters are perfectly behaved, because girls are, apparently, and also bizarrely vindictive towards their brother. Ugh.) Basically, when this movie was dredging tired old tropes from the bottom of the barrel, it didn’t skimp on the sexist ones.
Also, the movie’s weirdly classist? Angel keeps reiterating that Scamp is somehow “better” than the junkyard dogs, because he has a home. So…people born into privilege are morally superior? Because that is literally what you’re saying. Five hundred times.3
Finally, I should note the cast. As mentioned above, Alyssa Milano plays Angel; she’s perfectly fine, when she’s not trying to be the most seductive stray puppy on the street. Scott Wolf is the poor man’s Jason Marsden as Scamp (which is funny because in real life Jason Marsden is kind of the poor man’s Scott Wolf, or at least he was in the 90s).4 (Cutely, their singing voices are Roger Bart, singing voice of Hercules, and Susan Egan, who played Meg.) Jeff Bennett and Jodi “Ariel” Benson ape the original voices for Tramp and Lady reasonably well, though Jeff should not have been given all those high notes to sing, and the rest of the cast is a jumble of voice acting perennials and people I’ve never heard of. They’re all perfectly fine – no one is terrible, no one is dazzling.
…And that’s the thing. As irritated as I am by the lazy sexism of the movie, nothing about the rest of it is terrible; even the sexism could be way more egregious. But filling up your 60-minute running time with hackneyed plots and tired tropes is exactly the problem with Disney’s sequels; they’re empty vessels designed to leech money out of parents’ wallets by recalling actual masterpieces. Children deserve better than dumbed-down writing and staid stories, and the Disney name and characters deserve better than to be squeezed dry like this. Don’t tarnish your legacy with this shlock, Disney.
- It makes no sense logistically as well as on an emotional level. Scamp spends a lot of time complaining about “Tramp’s rules” and Tramp chaining him up in the backyard, but, uh, that was Jim Dear. Of course, Jim Dear declaring that a little mud is “the last straw” is also completely ridiculous. Dude, if you want a spotless house, don’t have six dogs and a baby. ↩
- I actually looked this up because it bothered me so much. Scamp’s six months old (the first movie ended around Christmas and it’s July now). Of course, we don’t know what breed(s) Tramp is, but Scamp’s half cocker Spaniel, even if it doesn’t show, and cockers are actually full grown at six months – but most dogs take about a year, and Scamp is clearly shown to be half-grown, so I stand by it being gross to have Angel and her relationships with Scamp and Buster so sexualized. (Also, Jim Dear and Darling’s baby is both way too small and way too articulate for a one-year-old.) ↩
- Do NOT do a drinking game for this movie, especially for the word “family.” There were some exchanges between Tramp and Scamp where it was in literally every sentence they spoke. See also “This isn’t where I belong”/”This is where you belong.” Such lazy dialogue. ↩
- I’m also amused by someone named “Wolf” playing a character who wants to be a “wild dog.” What can I say? I’m easy. ↩