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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Red Dog: True Blue is the tale of a young boy, a motorbike, and a dog set in Western Australia at an outlying desert cattle station. The movie is the fictional origin story of a legendary dog first seen on film in 2011's Red Dog, a box office and critical success. The original filmmakers have chosen to make this "prequel" a coming-of-age story about a boy forced to live with his grandfather in an environment completely different from his big-city Sydney upbringing. Viewers can expect suspense: A dark, spooky cave with associated Aboriginal myths appears in several sequences, an agitated horse chases the young hero, and a fire threatens, as does a storm and lightning. (Spoiler alert: A horse dies.) A few mild swear words ("hell," "damn," "crap," "Christ") are heard, as is a dog fart. Be prepared for a light flirtation, kissing, and a dog's comic skirmish with a bra and panties. The film highlights significant issues such as grief, adapting to change, finding joy in unexpected places, and accepting responsibility. Fine for kids who are comfortable with mild on-screen scares and violence.
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What's the story?
As RED DOG: TRUE BLUE opens, Michael Carter (Jason Isaacs) is a harried Australian dad, almost too busy to take charge of his two boys even for a few hours. Opting to take them to a movie, Michael is emotionally touched when he realizes that the film, Red Dog, is about a legendary dog, one with whom he has more than a little history. Only Michael has always known the dog as "Blue." What follows is Michael's retelling of a challenging time in his childhood. In 1968, called "Mick" (now played by Levi Miller), the boy found himself housed with his brusque grandfather (Bryan Brown) living far from the city at a Western Australian cattle station. There, surrounded by a group of ranch hands, pilots, Aborigines, and the grandfather he barely knows, Mick feels abandoned and out of sync until he finds a dirty puppy in the desert, a puppy he calls Blue. With the dog as his only friend, and a motorbike that his grandfather gives him, Mick begins to find his way in this remote place. He explores this austere desert and finds it has its own beauty, learns of a myth and a curse that may forever change his feelings about magic, and feels his first pangs of attraction when a young schoolteacher comes into his life.
Is it any good?
Solid performances, a stunning look at the Outback, and a pup portraying a legendary Australian hero make this boy-and-his-dog tale engaging and a nice prequel to the 2011 film. Red Dog, a Red Cloud Kelpie, is based on an actual dog whom it's said roamed the wild country, forging strong friendships and bringing people together simply by the force of his personality. Levi Miller is wonderful as Mick. Red Dog: True Blue feels authentic and true to its period (1968).
Though there are some slow moments, director Kriv Stenders doesn't mind as he builds the relationships thoughtfully, and gives his hero a chance to react to events and people that will impact the rest of his life. Setting the core story as a flashback is more routine than affecting. All in all, there's conflict for those who enjoy adventure and enough character development, even a bit of romance, for everyone else.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the term "coming-of-age." In what ways is Red Dog: True Blue a coming-of-age film? What specific events or characters impacted Mick's view of life and his behavior?
Define the terms "prequel" and "sequel." If you had not seen the original Red Dog, did watching this prequel, particularly the last scenes, make you want to see it? Do you think the ending of this movie stands on its own? Why or why not?
The filmmakers showed the relationship between Mick and his grandfather developing very slowly. Which events do you think helped bring the two together?
- On DVD or streaming: February 6, 2018
- Cast: Levi Miller, Jason Isaacs, Bryan Brown
- Director: Kriv Stenders
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Communication, Courage, Curiosity, Perseverance, Self-control
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
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