Last night on the news I saw an item about a group of determined environmentalists riding tandem bicycles to Broome in order to protest against plans for a gas hub there (I am not making this up; it’s called Bike To Broome). One of their number was interviewed and announced that he loved Broome, but that he didn’t like industry or gas hubs. He said this while clad from head to foot in Lycra, wearing a modeled plastic helmet and toughened-plastic cycling glasses.

This man would not enjoy Red Dog. But thank goodness practically everyone else in the country loves it, and rightly so. It’s adorable: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll vote Liberal in the next election. It’s what Red Dog would have wanted …

Remarkably little happens in Red Dog, but actually a huge amount happens; it’s positively Strindbergian in that way, except that you’d have to wait a long time before you saw a Strindberg play with so many fart jokes. Set in Dampier in 1971, there are brown singlets, cans of Swan Lager, the salt mines, blue skies, blue seas, red dirt, and a red dog. This same red dog has positively preternatural abilities and manages to unite an entire mining community (except for the vicious caravan park owners).

Red Dog reminds me of those ‘Toyota Country’ ads where border patrols pull up wussy city slickers and inspect their vehicles for poodles, sweaters tied around necks, and lattes. There are no dolphins in this movie, but there is a really huge and unfriendly shark. It’s like a nice long advertisement for the mining industry, which is fair enough: the fact that this film was made by Screen Australia and lots of government money has, in my book, helped to compensate for certain advertisements of late.

Speaking of Cate, the dog in question – Koko by name – easily deserves an Oscar. That dog has about twenty more facial expressions than Cate, and about thirty more than Our Nicole, so I think he should be good for at least a nomination. (Apparently he had only done modelling work before, so this is a spectacular big-screen debut). And unlike Cate and Nicole, Koko also did all his own stunts.

There are fight scenes, love scenes, death scenes, pub scenes, and just plain scenes. I suppose I should include here the obligatory Old Yeller warning to take plenty of tissues with you, but I won’t tell you who turns up in a cameo in the bar one night, complete with awful shark bite. Go and see for yourself; you won’t regret it.

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