RED DOG

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

Leigh Paatsch’s feel-good movie of the year.

Di­rec­tor: Kriv Sten­ders

( Box­ing Day)

Star­ring: Koko, Josh Lu­cas, Noah Tay­lor, Luke Ford, Rachael Tay­lor, John Batch­e­lor, Arthur An­gel

Sit. Stay. Smile.

THE ma­jor­ity of Aus­tralian feel-good films are in­evitably doomed to fail.

The same rea­sons are al­ways to blame.

The film­mak­ers played it too safe, too dumb, or never had a clear idea of what they were play­ing at in the first place. Then there’s Red Dog. This su­perb all-ages pic­ture gets ev­ery­thing right: from the all-im­por­tant combo of cast­ing and script­ing, right through to its un­fail­ing abil­ity to please a crowd ev­ery which way.

The film is based on a true story, ir­re­sistibly em­bel­lished by the out­back myth which grew around it.

There’s a fair bit of the pop­u­lar book by Bri­tish writer Louis de Bernieres in there too.

The start point is one which has launched many a yarn along sim­i­lar lines: this guy walks into a bar.

It is late at night, more than 30 years ago, in the small West Aus­tralian min­ing out­post of Dampier. A long-haul trucker ( Luke Ford) has just lobbed in town, and has a thirst to be quenched.

How­ever, the at­mos­phere is not so con­vivial down at the pub. The weary trav­eller has ar­rived amid a cri­sis that has cast a pall across the whole of Dampier.

Red Dog is crook. Re­ally crook. Some­one has badly baited the lit­tle cop­per-hued kelpie cross, a le­git­i­mate liv­ing le­gend of the en­tire Pil­bara re­gion.

The wor­ried look on the face of the pub­li­can ( Noah Tay­lor) says it all. The poi­soned pooch may not make it through the night.

In the hours that fol­low, peo­ple flock to the ho­tel from far and wide. All have a tale to tell about how they came to know Red Dog.

It is lucky that the truckie is a good lis­tener, for the mighty Red Dog has crammed a lot of liv­ing into his 10 years as an itin­er­ant res­i­dent of Dampier.

And herein lies the sim­ple charm of the film.

With the nar­ra­tion torch con­tin­u­ally passed around the front bar, the unique char­ac­ter and no­ble spirit of Red Dog ( played in re­mark­ably ex­pres­sive fash­ion by a tal­ented canine named Koko) burns brightly through­out.

In spite of a bitsy, episodic struc­ture, ev­ery­thing about this classy af­fair flows beau­ti­fully and co­her­ently.

The movie is funny when it should be ( keep an eye peeled for Red Dog’s fa­mous neme­sis, Red Cat), poignant when least ex­pected ( cour­tesy of the mut­tly hero’s friend­ship with a no­madic Amer­i­can played by Josh Lu­cas) and a plea­sure to watch at all times.

The likes of The Cas­tle, Kenny and Strictly Ball­room clearly re­main our finest home-made feel-good­ers from the past decade or two. It is not over-es­ti­mat­ing the ap­peal of Red Dog to state it could go close to be­ing men­tioned in the same breath in the near fu­ture.

LEIGH PAATSCH

red­dog­movie. com. au

Now show­ing Vil­lage Cin­e­mas

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