Review: Red Dog True Blue
(PG) Levi Miller, Bryan Brown, Jason Isaacs
For those unfamiliar with the legendary outback adventures of Red Dog, it is worth finding Red Dog (2011) on Blu-ray, DVD or your favourite streaming service and experience the magic of this Australian icon. Based on a true story, Red had a knack for hitching rides across remote Western Australia, winning eating contests and drawing in the hearts of the citizens of Dampier. But all of his unique talents went unexplained in that 2011 original…. until we now come to the release of Red Dog: True Blue. This prequel goes back to the development of the extraordinary canine’s personality and giftedness.
In True Blue, director Kriv Stenders brings his favourite kelpie back to the big screen to consider his history. After a massive cyclone hits the west coast of Australia, Red is saved by young Mick (Levi Miller) on the edge of his grandfather’s station. The boy and his dog grow in their life in the Australian outback and discover what it really means to be best mates. This coming-of-age film explores the challenges of being separated from family, trying to find a home in an unfamiliar part of the world, the struggles of young love, and how a boy truly needs his dog.
Red Dog became one of Australia’s biggest cinematic hits (Currently, number 10 of all time in Australia). In that family film, Stenders was able to capture the magic of the mythical dog and the long lasting impact he had on the small mining community of Dampier. With the success of the original and the emotions it produced, it only made sense to revisit the adventures of the kelpie from WA. While deciding to go back to Red’s past makes sense for the sake of story development, it leads to the same ill effects of the Star Wars prequels.
In trying to explain each element of the dogs skills, the specialness of this unique dog is lost in the details. Ultimately, True Blue suffers under the weight of explanation, while trying to be part of the journey of Mick and his coming-of-age struggles.
What made the original journey special was the inclusion of a great supporting cast and their short biographical sketches. Even though Levi Miller (Pan) and Bryan Brown (A Light Between Oceans) do admirable work with what they’ve been given, the surrounding players lack the specialness of the first film. Also, trying to use beautiful landscapes as distractions cannot mask the challenge of trying to do too much with this chapter of Red Dog’s life.
Instead of coming out as top dog, this episode of this dog’s life is merely a dog of a film. It does offer a glimpse into the outback life of Australia, but fails to capture the magic of the original.
What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?
- What does the Bible say about caring for animals? (Genesis 1:26-28, Proverbs 27:23, Isaiah 40:11)
- How does the Bible address mental illness? (Psalm 34: 17-20, Isaiah 41:10, Philippians 4:6-7, 2 Timothy 1:7)