Red Dog is the movie that Australia should have been. It’s a perfect storm of quintessential Australiana: mateship, multiculturalism, the outback, Strine, natural resources, and the Aussie-larrikin sense of humour. It paints a detailed portrait of both the country and its people, without resorting to caricatures or stereotypes like Baz Luhrman did (well, it does a little bit, but I’ll explain below).
Although it purports to be based a real, true blue story, the plot follows a very similar template to the Hachiko story, which was also recently filmed by Hollywood as Hachiko: A Dog’s Story with Richard Gere (I haven’t seen that one, although I’m willing to bet that this movie doggy-doos all over it, in line with my usual tirade about all the good things that Hollywood goes out of its way to ruin). Essentially, it’s about a dog that demonstrates the epitome of canine faithfulness after its master dies.
Because the story is made out to be a legend and told in flashbacks, the characters are all slightly comical (e.g. three Eastern Europeans characters with surnames ending in -ski are referred to as “The Ski Patrol”), but it doesn’t detract too much because you expect legends to be somewhat hyperbolic. The characters might be overplayed, the humour and emotions definitely aren’t – the script never tries to extort a laugh or a tear from you, and casually and confidently lets the audience decide for itself how it should feel.
Whether you’re a dog person or not, Red Dog is part of that rare breed: the charming Australian movie (but having said that, Aussie movies seem to be on the up and up) and definitely worth watching.