Oddball

(G) Starring: Shane Jacobson, Sarah Snook, Alan Tudyk

Allan “Swampy” Marsh (Shane Jacobson)has a problem. As a chicken farmer, he needs a dog that will protect his egg-laying profit makers. He has two Maremma sheepdogs and one of them, Oddball, does not seem to understand his role as a guard dog. Yet, that is not the only problem that the large white canine presents for Swampy’s family. The mischievous dog is on his last strike with the local authorities, because he has a tendency to cause mayhem whenever he gets into the nearby township of Warrnambool. Swampy has to figure out what to do with the problem that is Oddball.

The answer might be with the iconic fairy penguins that live on Middle Island, just off the coast near Warrnambool. His daughter, Emily (Sarah Snook), oversees the conservation of this little penguin colony and the flock is in a battle for their existence against natural and human forces. Foxes are the natural element killing off the penguin population. The human element is the tourist board who wants to turn the island into a whale watching outpost.

Interestingly, Oddball seems to provide the answer to the penguin’s problems. Even though he does not seem to connect with chickens, he does have a unique connection with the penguins. Can Swampy convince Emily and the city council to let Oddball help save the penguin community?

This true-life story of a fun-loving dog, his eccentric owner and a flock of endangered penguins becomes a by-the-book fairy (penguintale.

The primarily Australian cast provide an enjoyable backdrop for this dog-centred tale. Coco Jack Gillies  (Mad Max: Fury Road) plays Swampy’s cute granddaughter and manages to hold her own on screen with Shane Jacobson, but it is his grandfather character that holds the story together. Jacobson manages to defy the famous “never work with children or animals” statement and outshines his co-stars.

Unsurprisingly, this family comedy contains a certain level of slapstick fun, adorable animals, cute children and family tensions. These surround the story’s core focus of saving the colony of fairy penguins. All of this is played against a beautiful canvas of the Victorian coastline which do distract from — but do not make up for — the poor special effects found during other “outdoor” sequences that clearly have been shot inside a studio. These poorly shot scenes must stem from Oddball‘s relatively low budget, and they don’t diminish the overall cinematic experience.

Television-turned-feature film director Stuart McDonald does an admirable job of delivering a humorous and entertaining family film. Oddball does not have the same magic of other family Australian productions like Red Dog or Paper Planes, but parents cannot go wrong with choosing Oddball for their children this seasonIt provides everything that would be expected of a family comedy and the opportunity for families to have fun together at the flicks.

It may seem odd to think that a film like Oddball could make someone consider purpose in life, but it does. Its storyline provides the straight-forward consideration that all things are made with a purpose. People, penguins and even dogs named Oddball. In Romans, one of the letters in the Bible, Paul writes about God’s creation — ‘For from him and through him and to him are all things.’ 

Everything has a purpose, even the simplest things in the world have a place and a purpose. So, consider this: if God has a plan for a big white dog, could he have one for each of us?


Leaving the cinema
Nothing exceptional about Oddball, but it is an enjoyable film that any family with younger children could enjoy.

 

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

  1. What is the importance of a community?(John 14:18, James 1:27)
  2. Why is family important? (Matthew 22:36-40, Romans 15:2)
  3. Does God care about animals? (Genesis 1:30, Proverbs 27:23)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

 

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