by Rachel Willis
A lighthearted adventure tale about a boy and his dog – I mean, dingo – struggling to survive alone in the Australian outback, Tim Brown’s latest film, Buckley’s Chance, should delight viewers of a certain age (the under 10 crowd).
Tough kid Ridley (Milan Burch) finds his world upended when he and his mom, Gloria (Victoria Hill), move from New York City to live with his irascible grandfather (Bill Nighy) on a sheep farm in the rugged Outback.
There isn’t much explanation as to why Gloria and Ridley are moving around the world to live with a man neither of them has met. While this might not bother children, it is a bit of a head-scratcher. We get a bit more later to explain this sudden upheaval in Ridley’s life, but it’s only a tidbit of not entirely convincing information.
It takes decidedly too long to introduce the Adorable Dingo that befriends Ridley. But it’s worth the wait. From the moment the long-legged, golden-coated wild dog enters the story, he steals the show. Okay, not quite, but he does distract from the moments when Burch’s acting falters. The relationship between boy and dingo gives the movie its emotional center.
A children’s adventure film needs bumbling baddies, and this one adds a couple who have the right amount of menace and hilarity. A few laughs are hewn from these villainous hog farmers, and they’re easily the most entertaining part of the movie.
The film’s biggest weaknesses come when it forgets its target audience. There are a few scenes that center too much around the adults and their dramas. Without Ridley’s presence, these scenes are out of place. There isn’t much appeal for children in a woman and her father-in-law reminiscing. Throwing these moments into the film also leaves less time for the main adventure.
As the hardnosed grandfather, Nighy doesn’t bring his A-game. His Australian accent is bad, his performance a little wooden, but you can’t help but like him just the same. His exchanges with Burch provide some of the film’s finest moments (not including the dingo).
The Australian outback is one of the most distinctive locales on earth, and cinematographer Ben Nott knows how to draw both the beauty and the terror from it. It’s tough not to be impressed with the challenges Ridley faces against this uncompromising landscape with just his wits and a dingo.
If you need a movie to enjoy with your kids, this one is good enough for all ages.