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Red Dog

Red Dog

Released 24 February 2012
Director Kriv Stenders

Josh Lucas, Rachael Taylor, Koko the dog

Louis de Bernieres, Daniel Taplitz
Producer(s) Julie Ryan, Nelson Woss
Origin Australia
Running Time 92 minutes
Genre Comedy, drama, family
Rating PG

An animal cracker.

There’s a lot of good work coming out of Australia at the moment but to put it mildly, none of it has been particularly cheery. Animal Kingdom, contrary to its name, wasn’t exactly pitched at fans of David Attenborough while Snowtown featured, amongst other equally hideous bursts of violence, some heartbreaking canine cruelty. As impressive as these films have been, the charming Red Dog makes a refreshing change from all that relentless Aussie doom and gloom.

The story begins in Western Australia in the 1970s, when a passing trucker stops for a drink in an isolated mining town called Dampier. Inside the local tavern he discovers the members of the community holding a sombre vigil over a dying dog. This is the Red Dog of the title, the beloved mascot of Dampier. One by one, the miners share their stories about Red; how he became a friend to all the lonely men working in the mines, miles from their homes and their loved ones.

While the film does occasionally tug at the heartstrings (especially if you’re a dog lover), it’s a million miles from the schmaltz of films like Marley & Me. Instead, like its canine lead, it’s much more rough and ready, the sentimentality tempered by a raucous sense of humour and some delightfully silly flights of fancy. Director Kriv Stenders matches this tone with a grubby colour palette of dusty oranges and reds, producing a look reminiscent of a more family friendly ‘70s “Ozploitation” movie. The cast meanwhile features some familiar faces including the always watchable Noah Taylor and Josh Lucas as the man Red Dog chooses to be his master. Credit should also be given to Red Dog himself, played by Koko - he’s a likable, intrepid hero.

Red Dog is above all a good stab at a truly family friendly movie. It doesn’t pander to either the children or the parents but tells a simple but effective story in a fun and enthusiastic manner.

- Linda O’Brien