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.
reddogmovie. com. au
Now showing Village Cinemas