Red Dog

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Violence; Disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Red Dog
  • a review of Red Dog completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 11 August 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Red Dog
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, coarse language and sexual references
Length: 92 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The film is based on a book by Louis Bernieres that was inspired by the story of a stray kelpie in the 1970′s.  Red Dog became an adored member of the small mining community of Dampier, Western Australia, where there is a bronze statue erected in his honour.

The story begins when a truck driver and stranger to the town (Luke Ford) arrives at the pub in Dampier to find everyone engaged with a dying kelpie, Red Dog (played by a two-year old dog called Koko). The film progresses as a series of flashbacks when locals such as Vanno (Arthur Angel) and Joko (Rohan Nichol) tell stories about how the dog has changed their lives.

Red Dog was originally found and brought to town by publican Jack (Noah Taylor) and his wife Maureen (Loene Carmen). He formed an inseparable relationship with an itinerant American bus-driver named John (Josh Lucas) and we follow the story of John’s developing relationship with Nancy (Rachael Taylor). What happened next sent Red Dog off on his legendary travels.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Loss of a loved one; animal distress

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Several scenes of men fighting, involving punching, knocking down and people being held in head locks.
  • After John stops the men from giving Red Dog a live chicken to kill and eat, the men attack John but Red Dog moves in to save him, barking and growling and knocking a man down.
  • Fights between Red Dog and Red Cat involve growling, barking, hissing, scratching and yowling as they chase each other and 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.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.


Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Young children may 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 and crowd around cheering him on
  • A man is seen on a hospital bed, badly sun burnt and raving.
  • A man who was attacked by a shark in the past has a long raised scar on his leg
  • Tense scenes from the film Jaws are shown when John and Nancy attend a drive in. During the film, Red Dog jumps up 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 we have just seen.
  • Joko swims out into the water where a large shark has been seen and we see the shark’s fin very close to him before he is rescued by Red Dog.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

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

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

OK for this age group.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Swan lager

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Italian Vanno talks about women in his village with ”big beautiful breasts like nuts”

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • John and Nancy kiss passionately
  • John and Nancy are seen in bed together, covered by sheets, but apparently nude
  • A miner is seen dressed only in Y-fronts

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • very frequent beer drinking in the pub and at functions
  • some drunkenness and men passed out from drinking

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • “cheeky bastard”; “strewth” ; “arse”; “bloody”; “whore”

In a nutshell

Red Dog is an enjoyable Australian film based on a true story and featuring some classic characters and popular actors. Younger children may find some scenes disturbing, but it is a good family film 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 parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • care for animals
  • community spirit