Levi Miller and the dog Phoenix in a scene from the movie Red Dog: True Blue.
Levi Miller and the dog Phoenix in a scene from the movie Red Dog: True Blue. Contributed

MOVIE REVIEW: True Blue story of a boy and his faithful dog

Red Dog: True Blue

Stars: Jason Isaacs, Levi Miller, Bryan Brown, Hanna Mangan Lawrence, Justine Clarke, Thomas Cocquerel.

Director: Kriv Stenders

Rating: PG

Reviewer: Seanna Cronin

Verdict: 3/5 stars

THERE'S something irresistibly sweet about the relationship between a boy and his dog.

That's exactly what Red Dog: True Blue uses to tug on your heartstrings.

This sequel to 2011's hit film is actually an origin story, exploring the relationship between the roaming kelpie affectionately known as Red Dog and his first owner Mick (played as a child by Levi Miller and as an adult by Jason Isaacs), who named him Blue.

After seeing the original Red Dog film with his two sons, the present-day, middle-aged Mick opens up to them about his first dog on which the film was based.

The story follows 11-year-old Mick when he is sent to live with his grandfather (Bryan Brown) on his Pilbara cattle station while his mother deals with her grief over the death of his father.

The city slicker is a fish out of water in the dry, dusty outback and is quickly put on his backside by his grandfather's crazy one-eyed horse.

The vibrant reds, oranges and greens of the Pilbara jump out from the screen, creating a stunning backdrop for Mick's adventures.

As he settles in to his new surroundings, Mick feels left out when the men head out for cattle mustering work and struggles to engage with this schoolwork by correspondence.

After a cyclone passes through, he finds a puppy covered in blue paint and convinces his strict grandfather to let him keep the dog.

Unsurprisingly, the boy and his canine companion become inseparable, exploring the surrounding area on foot and using Mick's motorbike.

There's a humorous cameo by John Jarratt, who is almost unrecognisable as Lang Hancock: an old mate of Mick's grandfather.

Things get complicated when a young woman, Betty, arrives from Perth to be Mick's teacher.

Mick falls in love instantly but she also catches the eye of helicopter pilot Bill Stemple.

Miller, best known for his starring role in Pan opposite Hugh Jackman, is a great young actor with captivating blue eyes and a strong on-screen presence.

He does have a tendency to overact in this film, but he manages to get away with it most of the time because, unlike the original Red Dog, this film is more squarely aimed at children and teens.

The film's new furry star, played by a kelpie named Phoenix, has heaps of personality - just like the original film's star Koko.

Red Dog: True Blue is a sweet film that will entertain families but lacks the broader appeal of its predecessor.

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