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Protecting the penguins

(Roadshow Films)

Movie

Protecting the penguins

A dog with an untraditional task provides fodder for a traditional family film

The 2015 Australian film Oddball, based on actual events, is a traditional family dog flick that is streaming on Amazon and that the whole family can enjoy during the holidays.

Squirrelly sheepdog Oddball is more interested in causing trouble than guarding chickens, even though it’s what he’s bred for. His mom is the right-hand hound of chicken farmer Swampy Marsh. Without her, Swampy wouldn’t be able to keep foxes from killing his precious merchandise. Unfortunately, Oddball is not up to defending fowl, and he isn’t particularly popular with Swampy’s neighbors.   

But that’s before foxes start wiping out the fairy penguin population on the nearby Middle Island preserve. Swampy hits on the idea that if Oddball’s breed can protect chickens, why not penguins?

And there, parents, you get two for the price of one—not just lovable dogs, but lovable miniature penguins to boot.

There’s not much to cause concern in the unrated Oddball beyond a man acting silly after getting hit by a tranquilizer dart and some jokes about the unpleasant smells Oddball creates.

One possible concern: the movie’s opening scene involving Swampy’s daughter’s budding relationship with an American played by Alan Tudyk. He’s at her house, and she apologizes for their first morning together being a mess. It’s an ambiguous scene, but there’s nothing to indicate he spent the night.

On the very positive side, Oddball offers some splendid real-world education on the amazing instincts God gives his creatures and the ingenious ways we’re able to use them. The real Maremma initiative Oddball started was a stunning success. Not one Middle Island penguin was lost to fox attack after he and his fellow Maremmas started guarding them.

Sadly, the real Oddball died last year. But only after he lived a happy 14 years protecting birds, launching an unprecedented conservation project, and making a name for himself on the big screen.