If you're old enough, you may remember when Disney used to churn out live action films by the dozen. Nature films with an upbeat narration and a sugary Disney taste to them. Since then, most animal movies have not strayed from the formula but have dropped the narration and used less sugar coating.
Here is something then that will be both familiar and yet at the same time, different. Based on a true story, Red Dog easily fits into the category of "if I hadn't already been told it happened, I would have believed it had been made up" which is the benchmark for all good true story adaptations.
It will feel in parts familiar to those who've seen the likes of The Incredible Journey, Marley & Me and Lassie with the dog-related hi-jinks but there's no young pup factor on display here to deliberately push the audiences buttons and make them fall in love. Here, it's just a manky-looking dog that will steal your heart without having to be Golden Retriever or Labrador cute.
What makes this different from the other animal movies is the non four-legged cast. Right from the get-go, this sets itself apart from the wholesome family image normally depicted by American offerings. The events take place in a backwater mining community in Australia and its inhabitants are as "colourful" as you would expect from the predominately Aussie cast. Even the world-weary travellers in search of money have been Oz-ised to the point where, despite their different accents, they are line-for-line of dialogue as interesting and fresh as their home-grown counterparts.
The humour is as bold and brash as you would think but it's that same sense of humour that sneakily creeps up on you and makes you care not only for Red Dog himself but for all the lives he touches in the small mining community. When the inevitable tissue-ending comes along you can feel the heartache that the"big, butch menly-men" are experiencing at the thought of a life without the cool, calm and easy-to-talk-to dog around.
A genuine, sweet film without ever crossing into sickly sweet terrority, it has enough laughs generated by the great human cast along with the interactions of Red Dog, to at least warm the hardest of hearts if not melt them entirely.
UK release date: 24.02.12