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They Call It Puppy Love

'Lady and the Tramp II' introduces a new generation of romantic pooches.

March 01, 2001|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Made-for-video sequels are nothing new for Walt Disney Home Video. The company has done them for such recent animated hits as "Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King" and "The Little Mermaid." But "Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure" is the first sequel to one of the studio's beloved animated classics.

Based on the the popular 1955 cartoon feature about the romance between a beautiful cocker spaniel and a charming street mutt, "Lady and the Tramp II" ($27 on video, $30 on DVD) finds Lady and the Tramp living with their four adorable offspring--three girly-girl pups and a mischievous male pup, Scamp--at the home of Jim Dear, Darling and baby Junior.

Unlike his sisters, Scamp doesn't like domestic life and yearns to play in a world without fences. After he is sent to the doghouse outside for misbehaving, he breaks free of his leash, runs away and hooks up with the Junkyard Dogs, a group of street hounds lead by a mix named Buster. Also in the group is a beautiful mutt named Angel with whom Scamp falls immediately in love.

Just as with Disney's other made-for-video sequels, "Lady and the Tramp II" is OK entertainment, but it simply doesn't measure up to the original.

Scott Wolf supplies the voice of Scamp, Alyssa Milano is Angel and Chazz Palminteri is Buster. Melissa Manchester and Norman Gimble supplied the passable tunes.

The DVD version contains a lot of extras, including a behind-the-scenes documentary that features rare archival footage of Walt Disney on how the original was made; an enjoyable interactive "Tramp Hide and Seek Game: Search for Scamp and Friends"; three vintage Pluto cartoons; and interesting commentary from director Darrel Rooney, co-director/producer Jeannine Roussel and director of animation Steve Trenbirth.

Rooney says he was drawn to this story because it dealt with a runaway. While growing up, he says, his teenage brother had run away, so he sees "Lady and the Tramp II" as a cautionary tale.

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The Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt romantic musical "The Fantasticks" has run off-Broadway for more than 40 years. But the 1995 film version, directed by Michael Ritchie, sat on the shelf for five years--deemed too long at two hours--until Francis Ford Coppola came on board and edited 30 minutes out of the film. It finally had a brief release last fall.

"The Fantasticks" stars Joel Grey, Barnard Hughes, Joey McIntyre and Jean Louisa Kelly, currently on "Yes, Dear," and features such standards as "Try to Remember." The handsome DVD (MGM, $25) includes deleted scenes and songs, the alternate ending and extended versions of the songs that made the final cut. There's also a "jump-to-song" feature that allows you to click to your favorite tune.

In his commentary, Ritchie discusses his decision to have the performers sing their songs live. Since the beginning of sound in movies, musical performers have prerecorded all of their songs, then lip-synced to the playback. Ritchie didn't want his performers locked into a performance for their songs, so the actors were supplied with devices in which they would hear the musical score in their ears while they were singing.

Though interiors were shot on a sound stage in Los Angeles, the exteriors were filmed in a pristine valley in Arizona, the same location where director Fred Zinnemann shot "Oklahoma!" in 1955.

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New from the Criterion Collection is a superlative two-set DVD of Spike Lee's landmark 1989 racial drama "Do the Right Thing" ($40), for which he received an Oscar nomination for his original screenplay. Lee, Danny Aiello, Rosie Perez, John Turturro, Ossie Davis, Samuel L. Jackson and Ruby Dee star in this controversial drama that takes place in Bedford-Stuyvesand area of Brooklyn on the hottest day of the year.

The digital version includes a new wide-screen transfer and audio commentary, taped in 1995 for the laserdisc, featuring Lee, cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, production designer Wynn Thomas and actress Joie Lee, who is also Spike's baby sister.

The second disc is a real knock- out. Lee supplies new introductions to each of the extra goodies on the disc, which include behind-the-scenes footage of cast rehearsals, the actors discussing their characters and even clips from the wrap party. St. Clair Bourne's 60-minute documentary "The Making of 'Do the Right Thing' " is more than a cut above the usual behind-the-scenes doc. Not only are there interviews with Lee and the cast, Bourne also talks with several of the residents of the neighborhood, including a woman from a shelter who gets a job on the film sweeping up and taking out garbage. Included with the documentary is a look at Lee's return to the area in 2000.

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