SALT LAKE CITY — At first glance, Dog, the new movie starring and co-directed by Channing Tatum, looks like a simple animal-human buddy comedy: Guy has to take on the responsibility of a dog that didn’t belong to him, and during a few misadventures they end up bonding. It’s worked as a movie idea before.
But underneath that buddy comedy premise, Dog actually carries a pretty emotionally engaging subtext about the battles that former soldiers fight, be they human or canine, after their active duty days are over.
Tatum plays Jackson Briggs, an Army Ranger who suffered a traumatic brain injury during his service and now is no longer in the military. But he wants to get back in the action as a highly-paid security agent in Syria for a private contracting firm.
Problem is, thanks to his injury he needs his former unit to contact the firm and reassure them he’s not a health risk. His former captain agrees to do that, but with a condition attached.
Briggs’ former platoon mate, an officer who was a K9 handler in the unit, recently died. The soldier’s family wants the dog he served with to be at the funeral, so Briggs is assigned to take lulu (a Belgian Malinois) from Washington state down to Arizona for the service.
Making things more difficult for Briggs is the fact that Lulu is dealing with wartime injuries of her own and has become very difficult to handle. But the job recommendation from his Captain is dependent on Briggs having no issues during the journey.
Briggs takes a very cavalier attitude about the assignment at first. But as he and Lulu journey on the Pacific Coast highway in his Ford Bronco and get into some misadventures, Briggs bonds with her in unexpected ways as he realizes Lulu may be carrying just as much emotional baggage as he is.
THINGS I LIKED
Because so many scenes in Dog feature only Tatum and Lulu, a lot rides on how much you like Channing Tatum. Fortunately, in this role he plays a good mix of funny and vulnerable.
Lulu—who was played by four different dogs—shines every bit as much, going from terror to tame, and even creating one of the most emotional scenes of the movie. Tatum & co-director Reid Carolin even said they focused on filming the dogs in a way that most dog movies don’t, in order to truly make Lulu a main character.
Of course, the misadventures have their funny moments as well, including the requisite leaving the dog alone in a nice hotel trope (I wonder what will happen?), dog as an intimacy interruptor, as well as an accidental detour through a cannabis farm.
But really, it was how the movie stayed true to its emotional center and didn’t just lean into goofball comedy that I liked the best.
Dog is rated PG-13 for language, thematic elements, drug content and some suggestive material. Kids under 13 should probably be OK watching it but it won’t be as interesting to the younger ones as something silly like the Beethoven movies, for example.
It has a 1 hr & 41 minute run time.
I got really emotionally connected to this movie—more so than I expected. It’s billed as a comedy but it is every bit as much a drama.
I found it to be a sincere and well-made effort from first-time directors Tatum and Carolin. It’s obvious the care they took to tell a meaningful story about trauma, healing and bonding.
Final rating: THREE out of FOUR stars
WHERE TO WATCH
DOG is playing only in theaters.
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.