Story

This movie is based on a book by Louis Bernieres. The book was inspired by the story of Red Dog, a stray kelpie who became an adored member of the small mining community of Dampier, Western Australia, in the 1970s. Dampier now has a bronze statue in Red Dog’s honour.

The story begins when a truck driver and stranger to the town (Luke Ford) arrives at the pub in Dampier. He finds that everyone is preoccupied with a dying kelpie, Red Dog (played by a two-year old dog called Koko).

The movie progresses as a series of flashbacks. Locals such as Vanno (Arthur Angel) and Joko (Rohan Nichol) tell stories about how Red Dog changed their lives. Red Dog was originally found and brought to town by publican Jack (Noah Taylor) and his wife Maureen (Loene Carmen). Jack formed an inseparable relationship with an itinerant American bus driver named John (Josh Lucas). The movie also follows the story of John’s developing relationship with Nancy (Rachael Taylor). What happens next sends Red Dog off on his legendary travels.

Themes

Loss of a loved one; animal distress

Violence

This movie has some violence. For example:

  • There are several scenes of men fighting. The fights involve punching, knocking people down and holding people in headlocks.
  • After John stops some men from giving Red Dog a live chicken to kill and eat, the men attack John. Red Dog moves in to save him, barking, growling and knocking down a man.
  • There are fights between Red Dog and Red Cat. They involve growling, barking, hissing, scratching and yowling as the animals chase each other. They roll over and over locked together.
  • An intimidating crowd of miners and others gather in front of the Cribbages’ caravan to threaten them over their treatment of Red Dog.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five. For example:

  • Young children might be scared by some of the noisy scenes in the pub, such as the one when the patrons bet on Red Dog’s speed at eating a bowl of dog food. They crowd around to cheer him on.
  • One scene shows a man on a hospital bed, badly sunburned and raving.
  • A man who was attacked by a shark in the past has a long raised scar on his leg.
  • In one scene, John and Nancy go to a drive-in to see the movie Jaws. We see tense scenes from this movie. Red Dog jumps on to the bonnet of the car and barks at them through the windscreen, scaring them. This happens suddenly, and Red Dog looks quite big and scary, with teeth similar to the shark in Jaws.
  • Joko swims out into the water where a large shark has been seen. The scene shows the shark’s fin very close to him before he’s rescued by Red Dog.

From 5-8

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • At the beginning of the movie, some of the locals hold the poisoned Red Dog while the local policeman points his gun at him, about to shoot him to put the dog out of his misery. But the policeman lowers his gun and says he can’t do it. Both men and women are upset and crying.
  • In one of the flashbacks, the miners want to give Red Dog a live chicken to eat. They bring it into the pub, holding it upside down by its legs. John stops them.
  • Red Dog is shot by Red Cat’s owner (not seen, but we see him limping) and is rushed by distressed friends in a car to the vet.
  • Some scenes show John being discovered after an accident (no body shown) and also his funeral.
  • Children of this age might be upset by sad scenes of Red Dog looking for John and the dying Red Dog staggering along towards the end of the movie.

From 8-13

Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Over 13

This movie is OK for this age group.

Sexual references

This movie has some sexual references. For example, Italian Vanno talks about women in his village having ‘big beautiful breasts like nuts’.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie shows some use of substances. For example, characters often drink beer in the pub and at functions. There’s also some drunkenness, and men pass out from drinking.

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • John and Nancy kiss passionately.
  • One scene shows John and Nancy in bed together, covered by sheets, but apparently naked.
  • One scene shows a miner dressed only in Y-fronts.

Product placement

Swan lager is shown in this movie.

Coarse language

This movie has some coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Red Dog is an enjoyable Australian movie based on a true story and featuring some classic characters and popular actors. Younger children might find some scenes disturbing, but it is a good family movie for those with children over 10.

The main messages from this movie are about the loyalty of dogs and the importance of animals to people.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include care for animals and community spirit.