Here’s the novel touch to “Rescued by Ruby,” an utterly adorable hero dog tale based on a true story.
Director Katt Shea and her team include outtakes of the gorgeous rescue border collie mix “Bear” who has the title role in their film. We see the patience and good humor it takes not just to train a dog, but to train and then film one to be a star who hits her or his marks.
“Ruby” is another “Who saved who?” t-shirt of a dog story about a short-attention-span Rhode Island state trooper (Grant Gustin) who dreams of taking his “protect and serve” duties to the ultimate — by joining the K-9 unit. But the officer (“Party of Five” alum and veteran character actor Scott Wolf) who runs that team keeps telling him “I don’t see it.”
Maybe he senses the fact that Trooper Dan O’Neil’s selling point on all this to his teacher/new-mom/and newly-pregnant wife (Kaylah Zander) is about the raise in salary. O’Neil just isn’t worth the risk, not when K-9 dogs are German Shepherds imported from Europe at a cost of $10,000 each.
O’Neil’s Hail Mary is to get his own dog, train it and try out for the squad. As $10,000 doesn’t grow on trees, to the shelter he goes.
Ruby has been there past her “put down” date, a smart but undisciplined and unruly mess who isn’t even house-trained. People keep taking this beauty home only to have her trash their house or run away. She prefers the company of Pat (Camille Sullivan) at the shelter.
Can this not-really-a-dog-guy with the big hat turn that train wreck of a canine into a search and rescue star?
Director Shea (“Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase”) and screenwriter Karen Janszen tinker with the formula for moist-eyed-dramedies starring dogs in a couple of cool ways.
Wolf’s K-9 chief shows us what is expected of such a dog and its teammate, stopwatch tests seeking objects, people and human remains. Spirited Ruby is sure to have trouble with even the simplest five-minute “stay” command.
This comes after the O’Neil has to trial-and-error his way through books, Youtube tutorials (director Shea plays the dog expert in the black hat) and simple desperation in order to civilize Ruby for living with her new family.
There isn’t much new under the sun in these movies. Show us a few sequences seen from (low, handheld camera, slightly distorted lens) the dog’s point of view. Deliver a lot of mishaps and hijinx.
The ending is always a real get-choked-up moment if they do it right. Shea, Janszen, Gustin, Wolf and especially Bear trainer Tiffany Wall (Who’s a good girl? YOU are!) pull it off with family-friendly panache.
Cast: Grant Gustin, Camille Sullivan, Kaylah Zander and Scott Wolf
Credits: Directed by Katt Shea, scripted by Karen Janszen, based on a short nonfiction story by Squire Bushnell and Louise DuArt. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:30