Directed by Kriv Stenders, who helmed the preceding endeavour, titled just Red Dog, is back here presenting what is effectively a prequel, as our tale begins with Michael Carter (Jason Isaacs) recounting his experiences with this special animal to his son as a bedtime story. His anecdote takes him back to his youth – where’s he played by Levi Miller, a wide-eyed kid sent away to live with his grandpa (Bryan Brown) after his mother is admitted to a facility. Stuck out in the middle of nowhere, with only really Taylor Pete (Calen Tassone) he can call a friend, he finds a puppy, covered in blue paint (hence the name) – and from thereon the pair become inseparable, as he looks to his new pet for companionship, love, and even advice, as he starts to fall for his teacher Betty (Hanna Mangan Lawrence) – thus beginning the life, and fabled tale of the iconic Red Dog – who went on to become an Australian legend.
Though taking a somewhat playful, irreverent approach at times, at an accessible comedy that will have broad appeal given its slapstick tendencies, through the prism of this family endeavour we delve into interesting, profound themes, casting an eye over indigenous folklore and the land ownership conflict that ensues. The film is also, as with the majority of films that feature a dog in a leading role (think Marley & Me and Hachi) has an upsetting undercurrent born out of the sense of finality, knowing that the paramount relationship is one that can’t last forever. This is a notion enforced by the fact we know Blue eventually moves on to new owners. But it’s what the red dog represents that is moving, for he’s a means of exploring Mick’s youth, with touching finale that is steeped in the idea that the memories the protagonist has will never go away, moments he’ll always cherish, albeit with a friend he no longer has. It’s hard not to get emotionally stirred, even if you are a cat person.
The original film was something of a surprise hit too, offering kitsch family entertainment that had a lasting effect, and fans will be pleased to hear this follows on in much of the same fashion, as a tonally identical film – which is all you could really hope for, and expect, from this particular piece of cinema.