This warmhearted ’70s-set yarn takes its cue from canine classics like ‘Greyfriars Bobby’ and ‘Hachikô Monogatari’: films that take as their source the real-life stories of legendary hounds that so captured the imagination of their communities that they ended up having statues erected in their honour.
Red Dog, or the Pilbara Wanderer as he came to be remembered, frequented the multicultural North Western Australian mining outpost of Dampia where his outgoing temperament was said to have united the community and given it a sense of place and purpose. But Red Dog is perhaps most recognised for having sat vigil by his deceased guardian’s home before setting off on a search that somehow encompassed the entire north west of Australia – from Perth to Darwin – before returning years later to everyone’s utter surprise.
Stenders’s film is marred by a few cheesy comic scenes and some unnecessary mugging by some of the cast but mostly it comes over as an affectionate and inspirational if decidedly oddball tribute. Highlights include Noah Taylor’s expositional commentary over the film’s many flashbacks; Red Dog’s amusing ‘High Noon’-style stand-off with his chief adversary Red Cat; the deep reddish tones of the bleak Western Australian landscape; and Cezary Skubiszewski’s atmospheric soundtrack. It’s not quite as blatant a tearjerker as some of its pooch-based predecessors, and frankly, it’s all the better for it.