Directors: Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jane Adams, Kevin Nash, Aqueela Zoll, Q’orianka Kilcher
Written by: Reid Carolin
Running Time: 101 mins
Release date: 18th February 2022
It has to be said that Dog does precisely what it says on the tin. It’s a film about a dog, not just an ordinary dog. Debut directors Reid Carolin and Channing Tatum (who also stars) have taken the basics of the road movie mixed with a buddy comedy-drama and delivered a predictable, obvious and lacking in any real originality. Yet it also manages to do something that most films like this fail. It manages to be thoroughly entertaining.
Former US Ranger Briggs is desperate to return to duty but suffers from a head injury from active service. He gets a chance to be reinstated if he can take on a very personal mission: deliver Lulu, a Belgian Malinois, to the funeral of his handler, some 1500 miles away. Lulu has her own set of unpredictable and dangerous problems due to years of working in combat zones. The pair have to travel by car, which leads them on a five-day journey that could break both of them.
Most films about dogs are full of sentimentality and sickening sweetness. Dog manages to skate around this and looks more like Turner and Hooch than Marley and Me. Firstly, this deals with the perils of combat and how they can affect different people, or in this case, animals too. For example, Briggs is stubborn and brimming with testosterone, yet he is crippled by the head injury that leaves his sight blurred and high-pitch ringing, which we get to experience. There’s also a danger of seizures that could kill him, hence the negative attitude by his former captain to reinstate him with the Rangers.
Lulu is in much the same position. A hero who sports the purple heart for services during combat situations is a dog on the edge who hates having her ears touched and snaps at the drop of a hat. She spots someone in Kaftan robes in one scene, sending her into attack mode. The end of the trip will eventually lead to the end of her life. So putting these two damaged goods into the confines of a pick-up truck for five days is an accident waiting to happen.
The journey has moments where the pair are put into different situations, from discovering a couple deep in a forest living a reclusive life to being robbed to Briggs landing in jail for pretending to be blind to secure a bed in a hotel for the pair. It has Briggs talking to the creature while the dog does exactly what she wants, from escaping to destroying the passenger seat to using her skills to track down Brigg’s belongings. All of these misadventures just seem to bring the pair closer together, almost a mutual understanding of their own difficulties.
It also manages to be very funny. As Briggs gets increasingly irate with Lulu, the more the humour comes out, as she seems to be testing his patience more and more. It has plenty of heart as well. It wouldn’t be a dog movie without a sweet little moment, and they are there but never shovelled on or becoming overbearing. They are moments that feel natural to the story and not contrivances. Mainly this is thanks to Tatum’s Briggs. Spending most of the time talking to the dog, Tatum is such a charismatic screen presence that he brings a lightness of touch to the more weak moments. It’s good to have him back on screen, and he and his partner do a perfect job in the directing chair, keeping the action moving at a nice pace.
Dog is never going to ignite the screen with something different, but it works perfectly well as a slice of entertainment. If you are fearful that it will traumatise you or leave you exhausted with emotion, you should be fine. Some people will sob at the sight of a panting creature, no matter whether it’s sad or not. This should leave you feeling pleased you spent time with this loveable pair.
3 out of 5