"“Stenders production is highly tongue-in-cheek, counteracting its poignancy with wit and inanity...”"

Given successful Australian imports of late consist of the ruthless and affecting Snowtown and Animal Kingdom, it comes as somewhat of a relief and necessary change of pace to be exposed to the other side of Australian cinema, in Kriv Stenders heart-warming comedy Red Dog.

Based on the fabled true story from Western Australia in the 1970's, Red Dog tells the tale of the 'Red Dog' whose innocent affection and warmth touched the hearts of the locals, managing to unite an unsettled community.

Found as a stray by local bartender Jack (Noah Collins), Red Dog initially refuses to be taken in by a master, befriending all of the locals equally, living as a pet to the whole community. That is, however, until he meets American bus driver John (Josh Lucas). Forming a special relationship with John and his fiancé Nancy (Rachael Taylor), Red Dog finally appears to have settled down, until disaster strikes as John is killed in a motorcycle crash.

As the town mourns John's passing, Red Dog is confused as to where his master has gone, and sets off to roam the Australian outback in search of him – even managing to hitch-hike his way to Japan. Yet soon Red Dog must give up his search and return home, as the community need him just as much as he yearns to be reunited with John.

Despite the heartfelt nature of the film, Stenders production is highly tongue-in-cheek, counteracting its poignancy with wit and inanity, as it doesn't take itself seriously at all. Just the film's tag-line alone ('He's been everywhere mate') portrays the film’s light-hearted approach. Yet despite being funny in parts, Red Dog is evidently a film for all the family, and as a result it can be a little too accessible and elementary at times, relying on a farting dog to gain laughs. Although I did laugh at that to be fair.

The children certainly won't pick up on the facetiousness of the film however, allowing for the film to be equally as approachable to both adults and kids alike. At some points it becomes rather fantastical and colourful: deliberately unrealistic – culminating in a cartoon-like fight between Red Dog and the local imbecile, Red Cat. It becomes so silly that I had anticipated Red Dog to start talking at one point.

The film has a degree of Australian dead-pan wit to it, at points highly satisfying, at other points rather annoying. The feature does feel almost like one long Fosters advertisement – the majority of characters bearing a superfluous and additional 'O' at the end of their names. There are also a plethora of scenes featuring fully grown men simply wandering around in their pants. It seems that Australian filmmakers either make a bleak and distressing drama, or an inane comedy, with very little in-between. Yet the public are evidently more receptive to the latter, as Red Dog has been somewhat of a revelation in Australia, as the box office storm won six gongs at the Inside Film awards, including Best Feature Film.

However, despite the light-hearted approach taken by Stenders, given the plot to the film, Red Dog is undeniably moving and heart warming, in a similar mould to Hachi: A Dog's Tale. You try not to cry at the end, it's Marley & Me all over again dammit. I don't wish to give away the ending, but considering it's based on the life of a dog around 40 years ago, there is a tragic sense of inevitability about proceedings. Yet the sorrow is short-lived, as despite Red Dog's allegiance to John being the leading premise, the film spends an awfully long time setting the scene and then finally as the resonant moments kick in, they oddly last just ten minutes. And it isn't until this section that you realise what the whole point of the film actually is.

As the film refuses to take itself seriously throughout, it does become harder to be affected by the more poignant and upsetting moments, as you anticipate a man in pants saying something along the lines of, “G'Day Dog-o”. I also feel that the so-called special relationship between Red Dog and John could have been emphasised further, to enhance and to validate the sentimentality.

Red Dog is a harmless yet gratifying feature, plain stupid to begin with, stupidly upsetting to conclude. It does exactly as it says on the tin – it's a film about a Red Dog, and despite the endearing nature of the canine, no offence to him but he's no Uggie from the 'The Artist'. Unfortunate really, because on any other year the Palme Dog award at Cannes - which went to Uggie - would have been in the bag.