After the phenomenal Australian box office success of Red Dog (2011), a sequel seemed somewhat inevitable. Not that the filmmakers rushed to cash in on the success of the first film. Instead the same team comprising director Kriv Stenders, writer Daniel Taplitz and producer Nelson Woss have bided their time and attempted to deliver a film worthy of it’s predecessor. Red Dog: True Blue is similar in tone and style to the original, offering another amiable slice of sappy Australiana. While twee and inconsequential, it is also wholesome, watchable entertainment that should strike a patriotic chord with Australian families this holiday period.
Operating as a kind of prequel, the film is book-ended by a framing device similar to The Princess Bride, where a busy city dwelling dad (Jason Isaacs) reconnects with his childhood while watching the original Red Dog film with his kids at the movies. The screening has an obvious emotional impact and that night he begins to tell a bedtime story to his son, recounting his childhood adventures in outback Western Australia. We are transported back to 1968 where 11 year old Michael (Levi Miller) is sent to live with his grandpa (Bryan Brown) after the death of his father leaves his mother traumatised. The boy is obviously an emotional wreck also and struggles to adjust to his new environment. His plight is given a boost when he finds a dog named Blue (Phoenix) and what follows is an eventful coming of age tale set against the stunning backdrop of the Pilbara region.
Like its predecessor the film is beautifully shot, making effective use of the striking landscape. It is also ham-fisted and corny beyond belief, laying on sentimentality and Australian iconography so thick that it’s often harder to swallow than a jar of Vegemite. The performances are decent if somewhat forced with Miller being a likeable enough presence and his character’s mischievous antics with Blue likely to appeal to younger audiences. He also strikes a convincing on screen chemistry with the always reliable Bryan Brown. The veteran Brown brings gravitas and emotional depth to his character that makes him stand out among the cast. The rest of the characters are overly two dimensional and don’t really register or muster up much in terms of dramatic impact. The story neatly weaves an Aboriginal folk tale into it’s fabric, but the overall narrative is contrived and suffers from pedestrian and lacklustre plotting.
Like an ice cold Carlton Mid Strength on a hot summer day, this quintessentially Australian offering goes down easily and hits a satisfying spot. It just doesn’t pack much of a punch and is unlikely to appeal to audiences beyond Antipodean shores. It has a lot of heart, but lacks inspiration and is ultimately a forgettable, inferior sequel.