Much like our own, Australian cinema holds their own myths, legends and stories addressed quite frequently in the medium of film. When the myth at hand is in the form of an adorable, wandering pup by the name of Red Dog (or in The Early Years‘ edition, Blue), why wouldn’t this family-friendly story be revisited?
When crumudgeon father Jason Isaacs takes his sons to the movies to catch Red Dog (the film itself released in 2011) it brings back memories of a time afar when he held close a dog, of peculiar similarities, to the one featured on film.
Isaacs’ story takes us back to his youthful days where boy meets pup and an Australian legend is born in the outback, leading to an array of adventures and escapades and an Aboriginal myth to boot.
Red Dog‘s original director Kriv Stenders hits the Australian plains again to further his tale on the Red Dog myth, adding a little meta to the franchise which ultimately stretches the poignancy from the original tale as an attempt to tug on the strings is blatant from the word go. The Early Years‘ prequel status immediately doesn’t have as much of a hold over viewers as we already know the ending, but Stenders knows how to manipulate and orchestrate.
The Early Years is a solid family affair, with Pan‘s Levi Miller holding the central character with ease and an abundance of boyish charm, but it’s the overall friendship between boy and dog and an old-fashioned throwback to the days when CGI dog flips weren’t a thing that differentiates both The Early Years and its original.
Stenders’ appreciation for the old-fashioned family yarn proves to be the most successful and affable trait, aiming for genuine heart and adventure rather than progressing into territory that may be deemed entirely ridiculous — though the Aboriginal myth and proceedings may veer into territory it never truly relinquishes the genuine quality of what it aims to be.
There’s a good-natured sense of fun here. It’s light and breezy despite a heavy-handed fiery third act but the qualities are there for this to be a wholesome live action family flick.
Dir: Kriv Stenders
Scr: Daniel Taplitz
Cast: Levi Miller, Bryan Brown, Jason Isaacs, John Jarratt
Prd: Bryce Menzies, Nelson Woss
Music: Cezary Skubiszewski
DOP: Geoffrey Hall
Runtime: 89 minutes
Red Dog: The Early Years is available on Digital and DVD now.