Overview: The story of a boy and his dog as they grow up together on a cattle station in rural Australia. Roadshow Film Distributors; 2017; Rated: PG: 88 minutes.
New and Old: 2011’s Red Dog is a classic of the sad but beautiful dog movie genre. In the short time since it’s release it has secured itself in the Aussie canon of films your mates at the pub will admit they cried during. This year’s Red Dog: True Blue isn’t as sad, but it is still a beautiful tale about friendship, growing up, and just how good dogs are.
True Blue‘s story is framed with an interesting meta-device in which a grumpy dad, Michael (played by Jason Isaacs) takes his two sons to the cinema. On the car trip, they ask him why they can’t get a dog and he lists the many, many reasons: the smell, the work, the fact that they die, etc. When they arrive at the movie, it turns out, interestingly, they are watching the original Red Dog. The movie reduces Michael to floods of tears. When his eldest son asks him about the tears, he tells the boy that the red dog from the movie is the same dog he had as a child and he tells his son the story of how in the ’60s he was sent to live with his grandfather on a cattle station in the middle of nowhere and came to befriend Red Dog (though he named him Blue).
This framing device allows for some great comedy, as the story old Michael is telling (with Isaacs nailing an Australian accent) sometimes differs to the real story that we see young Michael (Levi Miller) experiencing, as old Michael brushes over or changes some details in the telling. The framing also allows the movie to delve into some great magical realism, as the story is essentially a bedtime story with all the embellishments and fantasy that come with the territory.
Landscape: If there’s one thing that Australia has lots of, its nothing. The setting for the movie, Pilbara, is a vast plain of empty space filled with brush, dirt, and animals. Above it is the huge Australian sky and all around are vast oceans of hard red clay for as far as the eye can see. Director Kriv Stenders uses this space evocatively as young Michael laments that he’s alone and we see that this isn’t a figurative idea, the nearest child his age can only be reached via radio during his correspondence schooling and all around him is space and grown ups.
Overall: Red Dog: True Blue is a lovely family movie with some very interesting elements and gorgeous scenery. Levi Miller (Safe Neighbourhood) is a movie star in the making and carries the movie admirably as the young Michael growing up, having his first love, first heartbreak, and running away from the scariest horse ever put on celluloid. It doesn’t have the same emotional punch as Red Dog and some plot threads are introduced then left hanging, but overall this sequel is a fun watch that will remind anyone who had a dog growing up just how amazing it was to have such a best friend.
Featured image: Roadshow Film Distributors