(PG) Levi Miller, Brian Brown
The original film was a family favourite. The story of Red Dog has a special place forever in Australian hearts, because it shows the life of a battler and his human. Making a prequel is understandable, but will it add or detract from the original story’s magic?
For those who are not familiar with the legendary outback adventures of Red Dog, it is worth finding Red Dog on DVD or your favourite streaming service and experience the magic of this Australian icon. He had a knack for hitching rides across the red land of Western Australia, winning eating contests and drawing in the hearts of the citizens of Dampier. All of his unique talents go unexplained, until the release of Red Dog: True Blue which goes back to the development of this extraordinary canine’s personality and giftedness.
Director Kriv Stenders brings his favourite kelpie back to the big screen to consider his history. After a massive cyclone hits the west coast of Australia, Red is saved by young Mick (Levi Miller) on the edge of his uncle’s station. The boy and his dog grow in their life in the Australian outback and discover what it really means to be best mates. This coming of age film explores the challenges of being separated from family, trying to find a home in an unfamiliar part of the world, the struggles of young love and how a boy truly needs his dog.
Red Dog became one of Australia’s biggest cinematic hits (currently, number 10 of all time in Australia). Stenders was able to capture the magic of the mythical dog and the long lasting impact he had on the small mining community of Dampier. With the success of the original and the emotions it produced, it only made sense to revisit the adventures of the kelpie from Western Australia. The decision to go back to his past makes sense for the sake of story development, but has the same ill effects of the Star Wars prequels.
In trying to explain each element of the dogs’ skills, the skill of this unique dog is lost in the details. Ultimately the story suffers under the weight of explanation, while trying to share in the journey of Mick and his coming of age struggles. In attempting to fit in all of the unique components of his affinity for motorcycles, eating contests and his loyalty to his master, the journey of Mick growing up in the outback is weighed down
What made the original journey special was the inclusion of a great supporting cast and their short biographical sketches. Even though Levi Miller (Pan) and Bryan Brown (A Light Between Oceans) do admirable work with the script they have been given, the surrounding players lack the specialness of the first film. There are unique characters in this outing, but they are one-dimensional and seem to be filling a diversity void opposed to adding to the storyline. Also, the use of beautiful landscapes in this outing as distraction cannot mask the challenge of trying to do too much with this chapter of the dog’s life. It does offer a glimpse into the outback life of Australia, but fails to capture the magic of Red Dog.
Instead of coming out as top dog this episode of this dog’s life is merely a dog of a film.