Director: Kriv Stenders
Screenwriter: Daniel Taplitz
Cast: Bryan Brown, Levi Miller, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Jason Isaacs
Runtime: 88 mins
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family, Romance
Review by Dave Griffiths
Nobody ever expected the original Red Dog film to go onto the greatness that it did when it was released back in 2011. Somehow the little Aussie family film showed the world that the Australian film industry wasn’t dead. While the industry had seen many Aussie filmmakers try the comedy vein, it seems it was the family comedy vein that still had life in it. The film grossed over $21 million in Australia alone.
Of course, not surprisingly word of a Red Dog sequel started to seep through while the first film was still raking in money at the box office. The only man who didn’t seem interested in the concept was the director Kriv Stenders (Boxing Day) who was already busy on his next project – the cult film Kill Me Three Times starring Simon Pegg. Along the way, though something changed and now five years later we find ourselves sitting down to watch a prequel to the original – Red Dog: True Blue.
There is little wonder that Stenders was nervous about making another Red Dog film, a dud could tarnish the legacy that the first left behind. Luckily though Stenders once again teamed up with screenwriter Daniel Taplitz (Chaos Theory) and together the two men came up with a film that is different enough from the original film to give it its own identity, but not different enough to alienate fans of the first in the series.
This second film is told through the eyes of a Perth father Michael Carter (Jason Isaacs – Black Hawk Down) who after watching the original Red Dog movie in the cinema recounts the story of how he was actually the original owner of Red… or Blue as he was called back then. His story tells of his younger self (Levi Miller – Pan) being forced to leave home because of his mentally unstable mother and moving to outback Western Australia where he lived with his grandfather (Bryan Brown – Australia). On a cattle station.
The story sees Mick meet Blue and tells of the adventures that they had together including Mick falling in love for the first time, with his tutor the young and beautiful Betty (Hanna Mangan Laurence – Acolytes).
Fans of the original film will see very early on that Stenders and Taplitz are onto a winning formula when they see the creative way that leads to Michael Carter telling his story. While it seems a little strange for the film to be referencing the first film so openly, but at that same time it so creative that you can’t help but applaud at the pure genius act that the two men have managed to deliver.
While Red Dog: True Blue is creative it does lack a little of the emotion that we felt from the first film. I’m man enough to admit that I teared up twice during Red Dog, but here Stenders and co takes the film in a completely different direction, this time the film is a pure coming of age story that sees a young boy take his dog with him on the start of life’s journey. While the film does also have a few moments that are likely to make you chuckle it doesn’t have anywhere near as many comedic moments as the first movie either.
Those that benefit from Stenders work here is the cast. Levi Miller is almost unrecognisable as the younger version of Mick and he settles into the period style of the film well. It is great to see Hanna Mangan Laurence back on the big screen and hopefully, we see her there again soon while as usual Bryan Brown leads the way with a mature performance as he leads the cast despite seemingly being in auto-pilot for most of the film. The big scene stealer here though is John Jarratt (Wolf Creek) who has a cameo as mining magnate Lang Hancock… and boy is it a cameo to remember.
Red Dog: True Blue is a smooth, enjoyable ride for the whole family. It might not reach the heights that the first film did but it is still a film that holds its own and reminds audiences just how fun it still can be to watch a coming-of-age story. The fact that it is being released on Boxing Day makes it the perfect family cinema outing this holiday season.