Film Review: Koko: A Red Dog Story

When the movie Red Dog was released back in 2011, it took the world by storm. Inspired by a true story, this movie told the story of a Kelpie dog who wandered around the Pilbara region in Australia. It became the eighth highest grossing Australian movie of all time, and won many awards. But Red Dog’s success would never have been possible without its star, Koko. The dog actor became a worldwide celebrity for his role in the film, and became one of the most famous dogs in history. Released last year, Koko: A Red Dog Story is a spin-off documentary about the life of this incredible superstar dog.


Produced by Lauren Brunswick and Red Dog producer Nelson Woss, and directed by Dominic Pearce and Aaron McCann, Koko: A Red Dog Story tells Koko’s story from his birth to his death by mixing interviews with Red Dog’s producer Nelson Woss, director Kriv Stenders, and Koko’s original owner Carol Hobday with fictionalised recreations of important moments of his life, starring Felix Williamson as Woss, Sarah Woods as Hobday and Toby Truslove as Stenders. The film also includes actual footage of the events taken at the time, as well as a few animated shots, and is narrated by British actor Jason Isaacs, aka Lucius Malfoy himself.


Koko was born in 2005 in Carol and Len Hobday’s dog breeding house in Dunolly, Victoria, where he was originally a show dog, and quickly became the star of local dogs shows, before eventually falling from grace due to his newly-developed habit of keeping his tail up, a big no-no for dog show judges. A habit that he happened to share with the legendary Red Dog of Pilbara, which caused him to be noticed by filmmaker Kriv Stenders for a movie he was making.
The fictionalised segments of the movie will without doubt get a laugh out of the viewer, between the Tarantino-esque stare battles between Hobday and Gwendoline Myers, the owner of Dumolly’s previous dog show champion Beatrice, Stenders’ struggles with his allergy to dogs while filming, Stenders and Woss’s antics, or the trumpet player who shows up at the best moments for some dramatic music. But Koko’s story is also an unexpectedly emotional one, and one can’t help but get the feels when he gets chosen for the role, when he becomes a superstar, or during the movie’s touching end.

But Koko’s legacy lives on. After his retirement, he became a mascot for the Dogs’ Refuge Home in Western Australia, appearing in donation campaigns for the centre as well as the RSPCA, Since 2012, a portion of the DVD revenues of Red Dog, its sequel Red Dog: True Blue, and Koko: A Red Dog Story goes to the Dogs’ Refuge Home, helping dogs across the region.


Which fits with the spirit of the movie. Koko: A Red Dog Story is love letter to our loyal four-legged companions, and won’t fail to capture the hearts of all dog lovers, Australian or not. As Isaacs say at the end of the movie: “Stories like Koko’s, as incredible as they are, aren’t unique. Everyone’s dog is special. No matter who we are, these wondering souls bring us all together, fill us with their love, and change our lives for the better.” “Doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, your dog will love you, unconditionally”, adds Hobday. Dogs are incredible companions, sometimes even more so than humans.
They understand us, and we should appreciate them for it. Canis Lupus has come a long way since the day our ancestors tamed wolves for the first time, some 36’000 years ago, and there is a reason we call them man’s best friend.


Whether you have seen, or liked Red Dog or not, you will inevitably fall in love with the tenderness of Koko’s story, and it will make you love your dog even more. And if you don’t have one, it will make you want to get one. Doesn’t matter if you’re allergic to dogs like Stenders. You’ll still love them. We all do.


Koko: A Red Dog Story is available on home entertainment on November 4th 2020.

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