Red Dog

Year: 2011
Production Co: Endymion Films
Director: Kriv Stenders
Writer: Louis de Bernières/Daniel Taplitz
Cast: Josh Lucas, Rachael Taylor, John Batchelor, Noah Taylor, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Luke Ford, Bill Hunter, Leone Carmen

I'm sure there really was an itinerant kelpie hitching lifts all over the remote mining country of Western Australia in the early 70s, but just like The Social Network, I'm sure it didn't happen quite like this.

But for such a crowd-pleasing movie, does it really matter? The legions of moppets drawn in because of the friendly titular animal will think so, and for the first 10 minutes or so I thought I was watching a kids movie – it's very hard to portray comedies involving animals any other way because animal antics inevitably translate to family films.

But a few deaths and a whole lot of misery later and I realised I had it very wrong, and while Red Dog is well structured, professionally shot by a very accomplished filmmaker who deserves a bigger career than he has (Kriv Stenders) and funny in all the right places, it was the veering tone between dark & adult and childlike and airy that left me a bit cold.

The characters are all a bit one note but they're all foil for Red, who hangs around mine sites, highways and camps until he latches onto American bus driver John (Lucas). John embarks on a relationships with pretty secretary Nancy (Taylor) and together with the rough and tumble miners they all form Red Dog's erstwhile family, even getting him membership to the union if the history portrayed in the film is accurate.

The laughs dry up as the subject matter turns a bit more realistic and the film's only chance for success is if the Harry Potters and Transformers of the world don't overwhelm the airwaves and swamp it.

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