Enjoyment of Red Dog will hinge upon one’s tolerance for extremely broad characterisation and relentlessly prescriptive soundtrack cues.
They say every dog has its day, but it seems the subject of this sweet yet schematic film (centred on soulful canine thesp Koko) enjoyed considerably more than most in his time. Australian box office sensation Red Dog is the improbable yet largely true tale of the eponymous, spirited cur who charmed a disparate community of itinerant workers in the 1970s, embarked on something of a world tour, then returned home to a legend’s reception before making his way to the great kennel in the sky.
Red Dog’s set-up is simplicity itself. A man wanders into an outback grafter’s pub to find an unsettling ruckus occurring in the back room. It’s not a fight, but rather poor Red Dog, struggling for breath and about to be put out of his misery. This scenario acts as the cue for a host of grizzled, melancholy workers (including the ever-watchable Noah Taylor) to expound upon the legend of Red Dog in a series of flashback stories, a handy framing device not unlike the one utilised in that another mutt-associated runaway success, Slumdog Millionaire.
Enjoyment of Red Dog will hinge upon one’s tolerance for extremely broad characterisation (personified most egregiously in the form of a Roberto Benigni-esque Italian worker), a surfeit of madcap zaniness and relentlessly prescriptive soundtrack cues. There’s a hurried, thinly-drawn love story on offer, while the potential pathos of the lonely workers’ lives is consistently undercut by the needlessly hyperactive film language and recourse to frantic, cheap comedy.
However, the star of the show is undoubtedly Koko, whose energy, poise and control are as impressive as his ability to convey emotion through those moist, doleful eyes. He joins The Artist’s Uggie in lighting up screens on an international scale and landing a welcoming rebuff to the dreadful treatment meted out to man’s best friend in recent fare like Snowtown, Tyrannosaur and Wuthering Heights.
Will this canine-opic be a champion or a dog’s dinner?
Heart’s in the right place, but very broad and quite irritating too.
Unlikely to linger long, but will do for a family day out.