A true story about Swampy (Shane Jacobson), an eccentric chicken farmer who, with the help of his granddaughter Olivia (Coco Jack Gillies), trains his mischievous dog Oddball to protect a wild penguin sanctuary from fox attacks in an attempt to reunite his family, keep his daughter Emily Sarah Snook) close by, and save their seaside town.
Review by Louise Keller:
There's plenty to like in this endearing Australian film about Swampy, a chicken farmer from the Victorian coastal town of Warrnambool, whose his unruly dog Oddball incredibly protects a wild penguin sanctuary from fox attacks. Based on a true story, director Stuart McDonald injects humour and heart into the tale, while Peter Ivan's script is contained and concise.
A fairy tale that really happened is what we are told at the beginning of the film. When we first meet Swampy (Jacobson), shaking himself dry like a wet dog from an outside shower, we can tell that he is not your run of the mill grandpa. Little Olivia (Coco Jack Gillies, delightful) loves her grandpa as well as his lovable shaggy dog Oddball, who is well known in Warrnambool for all the wrong reasons. Like Swampy, he is a little out of control. He's been in trouble too many times and the very strange Dog Catcher (Frank Woodley) is on the case, muttering 'I'm not weird', but seemingly only convincing himself.
Sarah Snook has a lovely presence as Emily Marsh, who is intent on keeping her late mother's fairy penguin conservation project on Middle Island sanctuary alive. The viability of the sanctuary's future is threatened, when wild foxes attack the penguins, reducing their numbers to dangerously low levels.
Alan Tudyk is amusing and suitably clumsy as her live-in fiance Bradley Slater who never handles any situation well, while Richard Davies is fun as Jack, one of Emily's admirers. The scene in which Emily accidentally shoots Jack with a tranquilizer dark is funny; youngsters at the media screening giggled and squealed delightedly. Another scene of note is the one in which Olivia breaks into the dog pound and rescues Oddball (and other four-legged friends). Watch out for likeable Deborah Mailman as the city mayor.
McDonald gets the tone just right, while Damian Wyvill's cinematography showcases the beautiful settings. Cezary Skubiszewski's score weaves a happy musicality throughout. It's an uplifting story whose positive message about the environment is sweetly told.
Email this article
CAST: Sarah Snook, Alan Tudyk, Coco Jack Gillies, Deborah Mailman, Terry Camilleri, Shane Jacobson
PRODUCER: Sheila Hanahan, Stephen Kearney, Richard Keddie
DIRECTOR: Stuart McDonald
SCRIPT: Peter Ivan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Damian Wyvill
EDITOR: Not credited
MUSIC: Cezary Skubiszewski
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Carrie Kennedy, Ben Morieson
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 17, 2015