I’m a dog person. I love cats too, but at my core, dogs are truly something special. So, any movie that features one of our canine companions is on my radar (no pun intended). Of course, films with four-legged friends are a double-edged sword too, since more than a handful of them opt to go for tragedy in the third act. Thankfully, while Dog does flirt with that possibility, it’s clear that this flick is never going to go through with it. So, you wind up able to enjoy a buddy comedy with a ton of heart, as well as a steady supply of laughs. It may have small ambitions, but it’s a very successful work.
Dog is emotional at times, but almost always a lot of fun. There’s just a pleasurable aspect to Channing Tatum (starring as well as co-directing) being driven up the wall by a pooch. A road trip tale with only one character talking can be boring or dry, but thanks to his charisma, the uniqueness of this canine character, and the story itself, it never comes close to being that way.
Former Army Ranger Briggs (Tatum) has been out of the military for a bit now, and it isn’t going well. Diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, he’s finding roadblocks to a new career as a private contractor. An opportunity to get around his medical issue presents itself when his former Captain asks him to escort a Ranger dog to the funeral of her now deceased handler. The Ranger was a friend in Sgt. Riley Rodriguez (Eric Urbiztondo), and Briggs knew the dog, a Belgian Malinois named Lulu, so he agrees. Lulu isn’t like he remembers though, anxious and potentially vicious, untrusting of him. As they set out on a multi-day road trip, both will have to bring down their walls.
On the road with Lulu, Briggs tries to bond with her again, with mixed results. They both have scars not only on the outside from war, but on the inside too. As they get closer to their destination, Briggs becomes more and more uneasy with Lulu’s fate. An encounter with another former soldier (Ethan Suplee) and his rehabilitated dog only weighs him down more. Will they make it to the funeral? Will Briggs turn Lulu over? The answers are pretty obvious, but watching them unfold is a largely joyful experience.
Channing Tatum is often on his own, carrying this picture alongside the Belgian Malinois, but his charisma holds its own. This is a good role for Tatum, mixing his charming nature alongside occasional darker moments. It’s a movie star part, through and through. The rest of the cast largely just pop in for a scene or two. Aside from the aforementioned, the cast includes Jane Adams, Bill Burr, Q’orianka Kilcher, Kevin Nash, Emmy Raver-Lampman, and more.
Co-directing with writer Reid Carolin (who shares scripting duties with Brett Rodriguez), Channing Tatum makes a strong filmmaking debut here. He keeps things simple, letting the focus of Dog be on the characters, as well as his inherent charm. Tatum the filmmaker, along with Carolin, knows what Tatum the actor’s strengths are, and they play to that. It’s a decision that repeatedly pays dividends over 100 minutes or so.
Dog will utterly delight those of you who love films that feature our four-legged friends. In the tradition of something like Turner and Hooch (though better made), this movie has heart, humor, and leaves you with a really warm feeling inside. Plus, anyone who loves Channing Tatum will get a ton of him, front and center. What more can you possibly ask for?