'Cavedog,' A Lassie Movie For The Ages

It stands to reason that while "Cavemen" were the Earth's first homo sapiens, it would follow that a "Cavedog" was man's first best friend. The Independent's film critic Geoffrey Macnab reviews a movie that takes on this topic. Titled Alpha, this flick is "like a Lassie movie done caveman-style" relating a story of the very first domesticated dog. The movie's promo describes it as "a friendship that changed the course of humankind itself."

As the story goes . . .

Set in the late Stone Age period some 20,000 years ago, it appears that while man might have perfected the art of making fire, he hadn't yet discovered the joy of household pets. Actor Koda Smit-McPhee plays 'Keda' a warrior who belongs to a tribe headed up by his father the Chieftain. During her first bison hunt, the inexperienced hunter loses his nerve when confronted by the group's prey and falls over a cliff. Considered dead, the tribe leaves him to his fate.

Survival of the Fittest

While Keda was not as experienced as some of his more macho tribe folk, the movie portrays him as one with better survival skills and more in tune with nature. He tends to his wounded ankle, creating a makeshift splint with sticks, and sustains himself by eating bugs, worms and plants.

When a pack of aggressive wolves attack him, he ascends a tree, but not before wounding one of the wild curs, who is left cowering at the base of the tree.

Keda nurses the canine back to health, who as you would expect returns the favor by fast becoming his best friend. The two then commence an epic journey across the icy terrain in hopes of being able to return to the tribe.

According to critic Macnab, "The film offers a strange but undeniably vivid blend of brutality and sentimentality. Director Albert Hughes combines elements from caveman movies with some of the more whimsical elements you’d expect to find in a Disney family feature."

Apropos, the dog is called "Alpha," and living up to his name, he helps his master hunt boar and fish. He even comes to Keda's defense when his master gets trapped beneath the ice of a frozen river.

Like those Lassie movies of days-old, both master and dog endure the predictable reversals and near-death experiences, which only serves to cement the bond between man and beast.

Press Preview

At the press preview, pet owners were allowed to bring their dogs to the viewings. Several turned up. The barking they made at the movies' end suggests Alpha met with their approval. "What younger audiences will make of the gibbering, sub-Flintstone language the humans speak (conveniently translated into English in the subtitles) is another matter," notes Macnab at the end of review.

Primary Source: The Independent