“Dog” stars Channing Tatum, Jane Adams, Kevin Nash, Q’orianka Kilcher, Ethan Suplee, Emmy Raver-Lampman, and Bill Burr. Released on February 18, 2022, the film has a U.S. Army Ranger bringing a military dog to her handler’s funeral.
The film featured the directorial debuts of Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin. Carolin is known for writing and producing movies such as “Earth Made of Glass”, “Magic Mike”, “Logan Lucky”, and “6 Balloons”. It’s always been everyone’s dream to have a dog as their loyal and trustworthy companion. However, for Mr. Channing Tatum, his man’s best friend is actually his worst nightmare. If a globe-trotting adventure isn’t your cup of tea, then maybe you prefer something more down-to-earth and heart-warming. This movie was on my radar for several reasons. One of which involves Channing Tatum, who’s continuing his big-screen comeback after spending 2020 protecting himself from the coronavirus. For this film, he’s pulling double duty as an actor and a first-time director alongside fellow collaborator Reid Carolin, who produced Tatum’s previous movies. As you already know, I’m always in the mood for a heartfelt buddy movie centering on a person and their canine. More importantly, I’m also curious to see what these two people can do behind the camera, especially after delivering a couple of successful projects as the actor/producer duo. With that said, let’s see if this piece of counter-programming is heartfelt enough to make its audience howl for joy.
The story centers on Jackson Briggs (Tatum), a former member of the U.S. Army. Briggs is tasked to escort Lulu, a Belgian Malinois military working dog, to Nogales, Arizona to attend the funeral of his fallen commander. At first, it seemed like an easy task, but he soon realized that Lulu isn’t exactly an excellent companion to get along with. During their chaotic road trip, the unlikely pair slowly learns what it means to find happiness…if they don’t kill each other first.
This is another movie that focuses on the gradual relationship between a human (mainly someone from an operations unit) and a dog amid their unfortunate yet comedic shenanigans. Rather than portraying it in a light-hearted and comical manner like “Turner & Hooch”, “Dog” attempts to provide a dramatic tone into the scenario regarding its themes of loss and trauma. It emphasizes the healing process of PTSD from veterans who left active service, both human and dog. On the one hand, it has that sense of importance for those on that familiar path themselves and could provide some compelling drama if done correctly. On the other hand, this direction can alienate people expecting the film to be a goofy, run-of-the-mill road trip comedy, including young kids. It’s one of the movies that could prove to be divisive in terms of people’s expectations. But if you’re willing to stick around during their subtle trip across the country, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised with the outcome. While it’s far from a fantastic representation of its complex topic, the film offers enough heart and a few laughs to deliver a sincere and thought-provoking road movie fit for both dog lovers and veterans alike.
The major standout that made “Dog” worth my time is Channing Tatum as both an actor and a first-time director. Outside of his roles involving action and comedy, Tatum proves time and again that he can also deliver some good dramatic chops. Of course, it all depends on the script that’s given to him. The movie sees him deliver a down-to-earth performance that represents Briggs as a trauma-induced army veteran struggling to find peace within himself. The result is a proper acting balance between subtlety and charisma. It might not be enough to consider him to go for Oscar gold, but it does show that he’s got the talent in almost every genre, especially drama. Now, the other question that’s been on my mind is how he did as a filmmaker. There were a few things Tatum could improve on if he wants to continue his directing gig, but for his first debut, I thought he did pretty well. Along with Reid Carolin (who also wrote the screenplay), Channing Tatum envisions a precise stability on the film’s representation that’s not too corny and not too sappy. He portrays certain situations that are respectable for real-life veterans and military dogs and heartwarming for modern moviegoers. The rest of the cast also delivered some solid performances, including Jane Adams and Ethan Suplee as Tamara and Noah, respectively.
The film’s blend of humor and drama can be a bit iffy at times, especially when it comes to the pacing. This isn’t the movie that goes by swiftly like a dog chasing its target. It’s a film that takes its time growing attached to the human/dog relationship and the gorgeous sceneries. It didn’t get to the point where it’s just straight-up boring, but it does have a couple of scenes where I was like, “Okay, let’s pick up the pace. Let’s see more of Briggs interacting with Lulu.” The humor in “Dog” is more serious-minded than the other canine-related comedies, so don’t expect Tatum to do a lot of crazy stunt work with Lulu during their little road trip. Despite that, there were a few moments that actually got me to chuckle. Even though the humor wasn’t 100% memorable, it helps prevent the film from being a major downer.
Overall, “Dog” is a well-trained comedy-drama that showcases Channing Tatum as a talented actor and a satisfactory filmmaker. Unfortunately, the direction given for the film may not impress everyone, especially those who’re expecting it to be a light-hearted dog-related comedy. Not to mention its representation of PTSD in veterans doesn’t quite hit all of its emotional beats. Nevertheless, it’s a thoughtful and wholehearted road trip movie that offers plenty of sincerity underneath its fur. Thanks to its cast (particularly Tatum), direction, Carolin’s screenplay, and tolerable humor, the film is a pleasant surprise that’ll certainly delight many dog lovers and a few casual moviegoers, too.