MPAA Rating: NR
Director: Kriv Stenders
FilmPulse Score: 8/10
Red Dog not only just won the first Australian Academy Award for Best Picture, but it’s also the highest grossing film in Australia for last year pulling in AUD 21,337,009. One would think that after hearing those things the movie would be nothing short of a masterpiece, and that’s not entirely untrue. This is an amazing family film that’s both uplifting and heartbreaking.
The film, based on an incredible true story, is about a dog that roams the Australian outback, hitchhiking to get around, and touching the lives of everyone he meets. After he gets picked up by a couple moving to a small mining community, he decides to stay there and becomes the unofficial mascot of the town.
Being a dog-lover myself, I found that this movie tugged on all my heart-strings. The movie tells the story of Red through each member of the community recounting their experiences with him. Like a guardian angel, Red seems to float through everyone’s lives, showing up when needed, then wondering off to the next destination. For those of us that own dogs, we can easily relate to the characters in the film, even if we’re not burly Australian miners. The amount of pure joy and love a dog can bring you is an indescribable magic that this film accurately visualizes. This is a town full of castaways and loners, and Red waltzes in and changes their lives one by one. He gives each of them unconditional loyalty and love, and asks nothing in return.
Although the style of the film was interesting, it seemed inconsistent at times. One scene it would feel like if Guy Ritchie were making a family film, and the next it would feel like a goofy live-action Disney movie. For the most part, this wasn’t annoying or distracting, however there were some goofball comedy moments. Understandably this is a family film, but it didn’t fit, and felt out of place.
Josh Lucas plays Red’s chosen guardian, John, and delivers a solid performance. Most of the other actors are Australian and not known in the States, with the exception of Noah Taylor, who plays the bartender that initially brings Red to the mining camp. All of the actors give good performances, but the real star of the film is Koko, who plays Red Dog. Filmmakers who make those awful movies with the animals talking should take a cue from this film. We always knew what Red was thinking and how he was feeling the entire film. After coming off War Horse, another animal movie, this was a breath of fresh air.
While it certainly wouldn’t win any American Oscars, Red Dog is still a solid family film, and one of the best animal movies to come out within the last decade. The fact that this film is based on a true story makes it all the more incredible. Also, it actually did happen, there are several books about it, although I’m sure things were embellished a bit for the film. If you love dogs, check this out, if you don’t, stop reading this, you’re not my friend anymore.