Red Dog is the most famous resident of Dampier, northwest Australia. Through the 1970s, he unified the mining community as a communal pet, then he adopted a master in John (Lucas). He eventually accepts John's girlfriend Nancy (Rachael Taylor) as part of the pack, which includes the local barman (Noah Taylor) and a lively collection of miners (Angel, Batchelor, Nichol and others). He also has a rivalry with the fiendish Red Cat. And after John disappears, he roams the length and breadth of western Australia looking for him.
The film spins the legend in flashback, as a young trucker (Ford) visits a Daimpier pub and hears the stories. As we flicker back and forth, the pub fills up until virtually every resident of the town is present, filling in details about this notoriously loyal dog, whose life plays out through thoroughly involving anecdotes. So of course, when we get to Red Dog's death in 1979, the sentimental attachment is almost unbearable.
And the filmmakers certainly know how to pull the strings. Based on the Louis de Bernieres book, the film is so packed with detail that we can't help but fall in love with both this fabulous pooch and the community that adopted him.
That it's based on a true story helps, but but it's also astutely written and directed, with open-hearted performances from the cast. Some actors drift over the top to make their characters quirkier than is strictly necessary, but this fits in with the film's comical tone.
Yes, director Stenders keeps things light and breezy, with a typically black Australian sense of humour adding depth as well as jaggedly funny surprises.
Even the way he anthropomorphises the dog is clever and engaging. So we can't help but enjoy being pulled into the story, especially when it's populated with such likeable characters and is set in such a striking place. If it's all a bit corny, we don't mind too much.
Run time: 92 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 4th August 2011
Production compaines: Endymion Films, ScreenWest, The Moss Group
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
IMDB: 7.5 / 10
Director: Kriv Stenders
Screenwriter: Daniel Taplitz