Directed by: Reid Carolin and Channing Tatum
Premise: A former Army Ranger (Channing Tatum) is assigned to escort a troubled military dog to a soldier’s funeral. Along the way, the dog and the soldier bond through a series of misadventures.
What Works: There is a genre of movies about pet owners and their dogs that includes titles such as Turner & Hooch and Beethoven and Old Yeller. These films, when done well, have a very particular and very powerful appeal which the makers of Dog successfully exploit. The film begins, as many of these pictures do, with the animal undomesticated and destructive and the owner and the dog gradually bond with the dog learning to obey and the human being learning to care for their pet and becoming a better and softer person for it. The strongest element of Dog is the relationship between Briggs, a former Army Ranger, and Lulu, a military dog that served on the battlefield and is now unruly. This is really a film about Briggs learning to accept that he is no longer fit for active duty and letting go of the past. Briggs’ own problems are mirrored by Lulu and the quiet moments between human and dog are the best scenes in the movie. Dog is also a tour of post-Iraq War America and there are some resonant moments that highlight America’s cultural and political differences. These scenes are especially pointed about how we (and especially progressive-leaning communities) regard those who served in the wars.
What Doesn’t: As is usually the case in road trip movies, the journey is full of wacky misadventures. Briggs and Lulu stop in various cities, meet different sorts of people, and occasionally get into trouble. These side quests don’t fit the tone of the rest of the movie. They have a television sitcom-like sense of humor and they just aren’t believable, especially a sequence in which Briggs fakes being blind in order to get a free room at an upscale hotel. Other parts of the movie strain Dog’s credibility. Like a lot of road trip movies, the protagonists get arrested and this looks to derail their chance of making it to the funeral on time. In this case, the dog attacks a civilian and Briggs talks his way out of jail but it is highly unlikely that Lulu would be released. The filmmakers introduce these sorts of challenges but the characters don’t do anything to overcome them. Like the crisis of a sitcom episode, these conflicts are just hiccups that are easily dismissed.
Disc extras: Trailer.
Bottom Line: Dog is an effective movie about a man and his pet. It’s an uneven picture and some of the side stories don’t quite fit, but when Dog focuses on its core appeal the film works. Dog people should like it quite a bit.
Episode: #919 (September 25, 2022)