Buckley's Chance, PG. 98 minutes. 3 stars
My beautiful eight-year-old Doberman has started having some fairly extreme mobility issues lately and in our home we've had to have some pretty serious conversations. It's all heart-breaking, and also explains why I overidentified so much with this charming new family film about a boy and his dog.
While the film's ending left me a blubbering mess - a "happy tears" blubbering mess - I'm sure your own family will enjoy this adventure film without the tears.
Released just in time for the school holidays, Buckley's Chance is an Aussie film that keeps one eye squarely on the American audience that it hopes to very much to connect with.
That hoped-for foreign audience means that some of the ocker outback Aussie characters weirdly count out distances in miles instead of kilometres, and speak a few strine-laden phrases that are too Aussie for even Aussie ears to hear without wincing. Kinda like that Hoges phrase "I'll throw another shrimp on the barbie for you," when we all know we don't really say "shrimp".
The Australia we see in this film is the version of the outback American audiences expect. The red soil is so red. Everyone wears an Akubra. A little like the awkwardly over-stated outback depicted in Baz Luhrman's Australia.
But these are small quibbles in what is a familiar and enjoyable family flick.
Ridley (Milan Burch) grew up in America with an Aussie father who filled his head with stories of his adventurous days back home. But when Ridley's firefighter dad dies saving lives, Ridley and mum Gloria (Victoria Hill) jump on a plane to Australia and to the outback sheep property of grandfather Spencer (Bill Nighy). Buckley's Chance is the name of the family property.
Ridley has a lot on his mind with his dad gone, so he doesn't immediately warm to the charms of Indigenous ranch hand Jules (Kelton Pell), and his grandfather's prickly nature doesn't help Ridley settle in either.
The one connection he does make is with a family of dingoes who are living on the property and making a nuisance of themselves with the flock. He even saves one that has been snared in fencing wire.
In an attempt to bond with Ridley, grandpa Spencer takes him camping but the pair fight and Ridley runs away, making his way cross-country back to the family property. On Ridley's trail are two local tough guys who have been leaning on Spencer to sell the property. But working in Ridley's favour are the skills his dad taught him on their family camping trips, and the dingo he saved and who is determined to save him back.
Kid actor Milan Burch warms into his role, and it is a difficult task as Ridley is a bit of a whinging snot to begin with. Superlative British actor Bill Nighy is always fantastic in everything. Here he gives a mostly convincing Aussie accent, and in doing so restrains himself from most of the ticks and vocal inflections that are so uniquely his. But grandpa Spencer is a slow character to warm to as well.
Lucky those dogs are so charming.