Netflix’s Rescued by Ruby is the second aww-cute hero-dog K-9 story to hit streaming in the past week or so, following Channing Tatum-and-dog movie dog. Unlike the Tatum vehicle, Rescued by Ruby is a BOATS (Based On A True Story) movie also based on a short story in a book written by an author and all those names flash by in the credits so fast you can’t read them all – writers always get the shaft, don ‘t they? But the real-life Ruby is still romping around, a former shelter pup who grew up to be part of a Rhode Island State Police K-9 unit. Oh no, you’re probably thinking, is this one of those inspirational movies? Yes, it is, and by the end, you will CRY OR DIE.
‘RESCUED BY RUBY’: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: This border collie – what a wild one. Her name’s Ruby. She’s been adopted and returned seven, make that eight, times now. Her continued presence at the shelter means employee Pat (Camille Sullivan) has grown attached to the loopy bitch, who we see in a destroying-the-snot-out-of-everything montage. The boss wants to euthanize the dog but before that happens we meet Dan O’Neil (Grant Gustin of The Flash TV series), a state trooper who’s tried and failed to get a spot in the K-9 unit. How many times has he tried and failed? Well, this is going to be his eighth try, because the lord works in mysterious ways, especially when he’s guided by screenwriters.
So you see the role Destiny’s Hand is about to play in this movie. Dan really is a good dude, a good cop and good husband to Melissa (Kaylah Zander) and good dad to a toddler, but what he really wants to be is a good dog cop dad. Why, you may ask? What, can’t a guy have a dream or somethin’? Do movie characters need to be fully fleshed-out in order to inspire our empathy? Especially one who walks into a shelter and snatches the pain-in-the-ass border collie who’s hours from a march down the green mile? His goal is to turn Ruby into a sniffer-outter of drugs and perps and (gulp) human remains, which is rather ambitious; the pooch is so bonkers and eager to crap on the floor, even training her to sit for a sec may require more alchemy than one would need to transform a mouse into a manatee.
But Dan has overcome his own anxieties and failures to become the fine upstanding citizen and family man he is today, so he digs in and hyper-focuses on Ruby. There are some characters who encourage him along the way, including Matt Zarrella (Scott Wolf), the tough but encouraging head of the K-9 unit, and a mysterious old Irish man and K-9 watcher/devotee (Tom McBeath) who shows up whenever the plot needs him to dispense a little inspirational advice that often sounds like thinly veiled faith-based-movie messaging. Will Ruby, who’s cute as shit by the way, overcome the odds and become a dog cop? And assuming that happens (NO SPOILERS), how many Timmies trapped down wells will she rescue? (NO SPOILERS, I SAYS.)
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Well, Ruby looks like Lassie if she was co-starring alongside Jim Belushi in K-9
Performance Worth Watching: Two border collies named Bear and Shiloh play Ruby, and THEY ARE SUCH GOOD DOGGIES. I hope they got paid in massive piles of jerky, fresh raccoon leavings on the ground to roll around in and lots of nice head pats.
Memorable Dialog: Two script-based instances hinting heavily that Rescued by Ruby is kinda about believing in the Christian god:
Melissa likes her man in uniform: “The taller the hat, the closer to god!”
Wise old man: “Now there’s a wink from above!”
Sex and Skin: None. One gets the feeling that Rescued by Ruby might be offended by the implication that Dan had to have sex with Melissa in order for her to get pregnant.
Our Take: Fun fact about Rescued by Ruby: It’s directed by Katt Shea, who helmed scandalous 1992 holy-crap-Drew-Barrymore-is-naked-in-it movie poison ivy. So you can’t accuse her of not having range, considering this doggo story is the latest faith-based movie with a considerably lighter hand than the ones in which one football team prays harder than the other football team and therefore wins the game, or where Kirk Cameron walks through the forest and happens upon a giant cross hanging out in a beam of golden sunlight. (Both are actual scenes in actual movies that I can confirm do indeed exist.)
No, Ruby the story of one of those little miracles that sometimes occur in real life, although some of us prefer to call it happy coincidence (the real-life Ruby was, indeed, a shelter pup on the brink of being put to sleep). Be thankful it doesn’t ball-peen us in the cranium with bible verses, or indulge that who-rescued-who embroidered-on-a-throw-pillow horsecrap cliche about pet-owner dynamics.
Granted, the movie’s not at all groundbreaking; we get the usual anti-suspenseful sequences in which we try to will the dog to not flake out so she can pass this or that official K-9 test (some of you might even utter a prayer like Dan appears to do), and an ending that pushes the idea of happy coincidences into the realm of ludicrous, manipulative schmaltz (blame the screenwriter ex machina for that doozy). It’s also amateurish in its technical construction – chunks of the movie appear to be edited with a crude implement carved from stone by Homo habilis – but that’s just snooty film-critic sniping. This is a short, sweet, 90-minute movie you can watch with the kids and grandparents or whoever, most of whom will appreciate its featherweight human drama and handful of innocent laughs. But to hell with the people – we’re here for the dog, and we get plenty of dog, so the movie meets its modest goals.
Our Call: Don’t take your love to town when you’ve got Ruby right here. STREAM IT.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.
Stream Rescued by Ruby on Netflix