I’ve flitted in and out of the “human-and-their-dog” genre over the years. Fate and parental decisions made me a cat guy for most of my life, but I may yet adopt a furry friend of the canine variety when income and living space allow. In the meantime, I can live vicariously through the lens of the various “man’s best-friend” films on offer. With its winning mix of picturesque urban and rural locations, BC has proved a good setting for the sub-genre in recent years including A Dog’s Way Home and The Art of Racing in the Rain. Frequent BC film-tenant Netflix seems keen to get in on the fun with their latest offering, Rescued by Ruby.

Based on a true story, the film centers on Rhode Island State Trooper Daniel O’ Neill (The Flash’s Grant Gustin) whose number one career ambition is to join the elite K-9 unit. But his passion and commitment have not been enough as his diagnosed dyslexia and hyperactivity threaten to hold him back. With the K-9 training academy short on German Shepherds, O’Neill decides to try his luck with shelter dog Ruby, a half-border collie who has consistently been rejected as an adoptee due to a hyper disposition and lack of house training.

It’s a real crash course for man and dog as O’Neill struggles to train Ruby effectively and acclimatize her to her new home including reluctant wife Melissa (Kaylah Zander) and toddler son Finn (Teodoro Tannahill). When learning by the book fails to yield results, O’Neill realizes that like him, Ruby learns best outside a traditional environment and that innovative learning strategies may just bring out the best rescue dog in New England.

Rescued by Ruby is the type of film that goes down like familiar comfort food. It doesn’t challenge the palette, but leaves the stomach more or less satisfied. Gustin comports himself quite well as the eager, yet burdened O’Neill and real-life shelter rescue dog Bear shines in spirit (if not resemblance) to the real life Ruby. The Vancouver Island locations have never looked better on screen and have the unusual distinction of having to use a rain machine for stormy scenes instead of the real thing, resulting in some sunny rainy days!

Despite the movie’s (likely) higher aspirations, there’s still the unwelcome whiff of TV-movie cliches at play, especially evident among some of the supporting cast such as retired janitor Seamus (Tom McBeath) who acts as a one-man wisdom dispensary and K-9 Chief Matt Zarrella (Scott Wolf) who is just one-note enough for you to fill in the blanks as to what degree of hard-ass he is. The script certainly doesn’t seem to know.

A small crowd pleaser, Ruby may win some hearts if not awards by the end of its 90 minute runtime. Easily digestible entertainment is always welcome, but I still hold out hope for more fulfilling film fare from Netflix in the future, especially as the subscription price keeps increasing.




Rescued by Ruby can now be streamed worldwide on Netflix

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