Cat people, avert your eyes! Red Dog is resuscitated for a most unexpected all-Aussie prequel.
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In Perth 2011, hard-working dad Michael Carter (Jason Isaacs) is guilt-tripped by his wife into forgetting about work for an evening to take his children to see a new movie in cinemas – Red Dog. Michael’s son notices his dad crying during the film and confronts him afterwards, leading him to reveal that he was in fact Red Dog’s original owner as a young boy (played by Levi Miller); only the name he gave the dog was Blue. Michael shares the tale of his time spent on his grandpa’s outback ranch with Blue and how Blue became the Australian legend.
While it’s hardly a shock that there’s another Star Wars prequel playing in cinemas right now, the prospect of a local Aussie film expanding its lore in the theatre next door is a little surprising, especially for one that seemed so complete the first time around. And yet here we are, with director Kriv Stenders returning for the puppy years in Red Dog: True Blue. Is it entirely necessary? Like all prequels, perhaps not. But what’s more surprising is just how well True Blue manages to work; radiating charm, laughs and tugging the heartstrings all over again.
Stenders and screenwriter Daniel Taplitz wisely focus on a straightforward boy-and-his-dog tale, which does tilt the film toward a younger audience. Lessening its broad appeal results in a smaller, sharper and in some ways more rewarding journey.
As young Michael, 14-year-old Levi Miller atones for the sins of Pan and does a splendid job of carrying the entire show. His antics with Blue are great fun, but the real weight lies in his relationships with the various occupants of the ranch – clashing, then eventually bonding with his gritty grandpa (Bryan Brown), and lusting over his considerably older tutor Betty (Hanna Mangan Lawrence).
It’s a breezy, infectiously fun affair, but Stenders doesn’t forget what made the original stand out from the pack – those big, emotional punches. And while it would seem damned near-impossible to match the heartbreak of the first film, True Blue laudably manages another, quite different moment of melancholy at its conclusion; one bound to hit any dog-lover where it hurts and wonder why these films don’t come with mandatory tissues handed out.
While it might not feel as complete as Red Dog, True Blue ties in so neatly to its predecessor and produces enough magnetism of its own to once again capture the hearts of dog lovers everywhere.
Red Dog: True Blue is available in Australian cinemas from December 26
Image courtesy of Roadshow Films