Released: 17th March
Seen: 4th April
In the almost 5 years that this blog has been around, possibly the biggest target of bile has been films featuring a dog. A Dog’s Purpose was a film that won my inaugural Worst Films list about as handily as one could win such an award, the follow up A Dog’s Journey was bland enough to be a forgettable annoyance, the spin-off A Dog’s Way Home was bad enough to make an honourable mention on the 2019 worst list. Then there was Show Dogs, a Miss Congeniality ripoff that got mildly infamous for having a scene people could compare to child grooming… basically, dogs in movies are one of this blog’s enemies and I worry every time I see one so naturally Rescued by Ruby looked like it was going to piss me off… but it’s undeniably charming enough that I kinda like it so yay for progress.
Rescued by Ruby tells the story of Daniel O’Neil (Grant Gustin), a state trooper who dreams of joining the K-9 unit but has never really been able to make it and is slowly running out of time as the unit has a rule where you can only join it if you’re under 30 and Daniel is 29 so the clock is ticking. After discovering there are no more dogs available from the professional trainers, Daniel goes to a shelter to adopt one that should fit the requirements and ends up adopting Ruby. Ruby is a half border collie who has a history of being adopted and returned multiple times due to hyperactivity and behavioural issues which creates a major conflict. Not only does Daniel need to get Ruby to learn how to behave in order to give her a good life, but maybe Ruby can get Daniel to loosen up a little to be a better, more trusting man… aka, Daniel needs to be rescued by Ruby.
To be absolutely honest, Rescued by Ruby is a very basic film. It’s not going for high art and not going for a heavy intellectual story, it’s a family-friendly biopic about a rescue dog who ends up rescuing people and it’s just charming enough that you kind of forgive it for a lot of its flaws. The acting is serviceable, they hired actors who pretty much always deliver good performances and no one is trying particularly hard to stand out with anything truly special because that’s not the vibe we’re going for here. Everyone is giving the performances needed to get the job done and that’s fine, we’re mostly relying on charm here and that’s enough in this cast.
It helps a lot that the core story of Rescued by Ruby is a redemption story, mostly for Ruby who goes from being an energetic bad dog who causes a lot of havoc to being a hero and it’s an undeniably sweet story (and hey, not one that relies on dog death for emotional resonance which is always a positive) that you can’t help but get a little bit invested in even if the film is, kind of objectively (though not really because being objective in a review of art is literally impossible) basic. It’s a basic film with a basic story and basic acting and visual choices. The furthest it stretches in terms of visual storytelling is when someone ties a Go-Pro to the dog’s head and shows us what they’re seeing as they run around the various locations, that’s kind of interesting but other than that it’s just kind of fine.
In this case being kind of fine is all Rescued by Ruby needed to be, no one looked at the poster or the story it’s telling and expected anything other than a nice little family film that doesn’t ask much of the audience and gives them a good time and it’s undeniable that Rescued by Ruby absolutely does that. The charm of everything will undoubtedly win you over, the cuteness of the main dog is on full display and the ending is so uplifting that it’s hard not to feel your mouth involuntarily forming a smile as you mutter “Good girl Ruby” because Ruby is a good girl who does good things.
In the end, Rescued by Ruby is just a fine little film that doesn’t push too hard, shows an adorable dog doing heroic things and features some good actors doing good work. Would it be a film that you have to watch right now? No, it’s honestly one that’s gonna probably be background noise to distract unruly children who will watch anything with a puppy in it… but it’s a good bit of background noise to distract unruly children who will watch anything with a puppy in it and that’s enough in this case. It’s good enough at what it’s trying to be, might not be a classic by any standard but at least it’s not awful.
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