Review: Red Dog True Blue

A rare example of where sticking to formula will always work out best, Red Dog True Blue keeps the feel good warmth of the original and never deviates from it. It looks good, keeps the humour & action coming, and director Kriv Stenders plays on the nostalgic Australiana with gusto. A worthy sequel, indeed.

It’s been five years since the original Red Dog stormed the Australian box office to become the 9th highest grossing Aussie film of all time with $21m. An oozing with sentimentality yarn about a miner and his lovable local stray kelpie struck a chord with the older generation who bundled up their kids and grandkids and took them to the cinema to see the film. Equipped with a pumping 70s hit filled soundtrack, the film became the stuff of cinematic legend locally, overshadowing the solid performance of teen focussed Tomorrow When The War Began‘s $13m haul that very year and breaking the drought of getting local kids into local films (a problem our industry still wrestles with today).

Five years later and both director Kriv Stenders and writer Daniel Taplitz return for the sequel which manages to balance the potential sentimentality drenched story with enough antics to deliver a supremely polished family film.

It’s the 1969 in Australia and 13 year old Mick (Levi Miller) is reeling from the sudden death of his father. His mother, unable to cope with the loss, sends Michael to stay with his grandfather (Bryan Brown) on his cattle station in the Pilbara. Whilst acclimatising to his grandfather’s stoic ways, a boyhood crush on his tutor, and the more wild weather the outback brings, Mick happens upon a mudcaked red kelpie puppy. He quickly adopts him, calling him Blue. Thus begins the wee merry adventures of a teenager and his pup in the Australian outback.

The film is bookended by a grown up version of Mick (Jason Isaacs) recalling the tale to his young sons which may cloy some hardened viewers but its a purposeful move to illicit a ‘legend’ type of tale.

What works so solidly here is the dance that Stenders manages to maintain in setting up some rather impressive action sequences (the threatening bush fire a particular impressive moment) alongside the more comedic elements whilst acknowledging the harsher and more austere elements of 1960s rural Australia. This dog barks, farts, is as cute as a button and, most of all, is as loyal as any being could be.

Performances across the board are solid, Levi Miller gives younger Mick a nice sense of vulnerability under the adventurous teen. Bryan Brown turns in one of his most solid turns in years and Pheonix (the dog) is the film’s biggest asset – adorable.

Outside of knowing this is co-funded by big mining (as was the original) which means there’s a pro-mining message in the film, there’s very little to criticise the film on. End to End Red Dog True Blue is a supreme family entertainment Old School Australian style.