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Red Dog (DVD)

A canine brings the Aussie outback together

Disc Specs

Starring Josh LucasRachael TaylorNoah Taylor Disc Cover
Directed By Kriv Stenders Certificate PG
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Visuals 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Running Time 88 mins
UK Release Date June 4, 2012
Genre Drama
Our Rating
User Rating

Being released in the same year as War Horse, Red Dog can't help but invite comparisons. Both films tell the episodic story of a noble beast touching the lives of all the humans he encounters and both have a tendency to become seriously sentimental. The crucial difference is that War Horse was brought to us by Steven Spielberg, who is the master of presenting sentimental stories so that the audience doesn't feel like they're being manipulated, and with a few notable exceptions (Hook anyone?) his films manage to avoid syrupy corniness.

Red Dog could have done with a bit of Spielbergian magic because, despite being based on a true story, it wanders into some dangerously corny territory. The titular canine was a mysterious stray that wandered into an isolated Western Australian mining town in the early 70s. The mining crew were made up of lonesome men from all over the world and Red Dog's arrival brought them together and the intrepid pooch came to represent the spirit of the community.

The film is presented as a series of interlinking stories as newcomer Thomas (Luke Ford) arrives in town a decade after Red Dog first turned up and finds the locals gathered around his deathbed. Several of the miners and local barkeep, Jack Collins (Noah Taylor), then tell Thomas the story of how they met Red Dog and what he meant to them. Through these stories we learn the tragic story of John Grant (Josh Lucas), the American bus driver who adopted Red Dog and the incredible journey Red Dog took in an effort to be reunited with him.

It's a fairly remarkable and emotional story to begin with, so it's a shame that writers Daniel Taplitz and Louis de Bernieres decided to heap on the cloying sentimentality and that director Kriv Stender gives the film such a glossy, superficial sheen that it feels like watching a commercial. It's episodic structure also means that it has a wildly uneven tone – one moment you're watching the humorous tale of Vanno (Arthur Angel) using Red Dog to chat up a veterinary nurse and then suddenly you're hearing about Jocko (Rohan Nichol) being driven to the brink of suicide by the loss of his family. This makes it frustratingly difficult to get involved with the story and you can't help but wish the film spent more time with Red Dog himself and less time trying to tug your heartstrings.

Overall Verdict: Its heart is definitely in the right place but unfortunately Red Dog is too sentimental to make this real life tale effective.

Reviewer: Adam Pidgeon

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