This tale featuring a scene-stealing dog and a gaggle of adorable children comes from Byambasuren Davaa, one of the directors of “The Story of the Weeping Camel,” but the docudrama suggests that whatever the animal in the title, the Mongolian native may be quickly becoming a one-trick pony. “Camel” was an study of a nomadic mountain family affected by the birth within their camel herd of a rare white calf its mother refuses to nurse. Much of the focus was on the clan’s lovable kids. And the approach was meandering and discursive. “The Cave of the Yellow Dog” is a study of a nomadic mountain family whose routine is altered by the appearance of a wild dog that the eldest daughter wants to adopt. Much of its focus is on the clan’s lovable kids. And the approach is meandering and discursive.
You get the picture. This is less an independent project than a sort of undeclared sequel. Like its predecessor, it’s of at least as much anthropological as entertainment interest–if not more so. And like most sequels, it isn’t quite as good.
But that doesn’t mean it’s terrible. To be sure, it lacks the previous film’s haunting shots of the wailing young calf and the efforts of the children to feed the animal, and its contrast between the nomadic lifestyle and “modern” progress isn’t as effectively drawn. And the central issue here–the conflict between the girl’s desire to adopt the pooch and her father’s belief that the mutt, presumably raised among wolves, might attack the family’s livestock–doesn’t have a similar degree of suspense. (This puppy’s danger level seems very remote.)
So what emerges is a nice, unthreatening movie that doesn’t mind being less a through-line narrative than a set of pleasant digressions. It won’t provide any real surprises, except for those who didn’t see its predecessor, for whom its depiction of a little-known culture may be new. And yet even for those who find it familiar, it exudes a sweetness and easygoing charm that make it hard to resist despite its lackadaisical quality.