When I watched the trailer for Dog, I was all in. I loved what I saw, a rocky relationship between an ex-ranger and a military dog. We’ve seen lots of films about soldiers and about dogs but never one that put the two together. Plus it’s Channing Tatum, how can you resist? But I did wonder if it would just be sentimental or would have some depth to the film. After watching, I can honestly say the performances were mesmerizing, the cinematography gorgeous, and the story had a great deal of depth and emotion.
Dog is a comedy film directed by Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin both making their directorial debuts. In the film, Channing Tatum stars as U.S. Army Ranger Jackson Briggs. He wants the chance to get deployed again but must seek out his commanding officer after being discharged for a brain injury. His commander gives him a job: Take Lulu, also a discharged military dog, to the funeral of her previous handler, who Briggs worked alongside. He must get her there safely and the catch, Lulu was injured and has PTSD, resulting in an inability to listen and results in her being out of control. If Briggs can get her to the funeral, his next task is to drop her off at the nearby base for her to be put to sleep as no one wants to adopt her in her current state. Ultimately, the question is if Briggs can succeed and if he does, will he leave the dog to her fate?
There are several reasons I loved this film and while the comedy plays a big part in what I like, it is not the complete reason. The biggest reason I liked this film was the depth and heart of it. While Lulu does do some crazy things, it is the dynamic between Briggs and Lulu that captivated me. At the beginning of the film, Lulu is anxious and scared. She has so many issues that you can’t see how she could recover. But she is equally matched by Briggs who’s in denial over how disabled he truly is. Both are stubborn, both are hurting both physically and emotionally, and it is the journey of them healing each other, spiritually and bonding together, that is the true power of the film. The heartfelt bond between the two, once they let each other in, is beautiful to watch.
That isn’t to say this isn’t a great comedy as well. There are many situations and escapades between the two as they make the trip from Oregon to Arizona that are hilarious. There is one scene where Lulu escapes which results in hijinks for both but also gives Jackson a new perspective on his unruly dog, who he claims is not his. I don’t want to spoil the various bits but suffice to say, the comedic moments will cause most audiences to laugh as these two stubborn souls figure out how alike they both are.
The cinematography is equal to the story and is used to good effect to help illustrate Jackson and Lulu’s thoughts. The scenery is gorgeous and when the pair stop along the road in an isolated area, it allows the audience to see Briggs reflecting on the situation and his life. It also demonstrates Lulu’s emotions, her bonding with Jackson. The landscape, light and shadow are used to heighten the story and emotions.
The acting is exceptional. The emotion between Channing Tatum and his dog star, played by several different dogs, is incredible. While the animals can’t use words, the emotion that she demonstrates in a look is brilliant. Channing Tatum’s response to her is perfectly portrayed. He is dynamic, his portrayal of his character singularly focused and emotional. While the quieter moments seem slow, those scenes allow for the character to reflect and show the bond developing. Lulu steals the show, it is hard not to fall in love with her but Channing Tatum manages to be equal to the task of holding the audience’s attention and his acting is phenomenal.
The film is predictable. You know that the film wants you to engage emotionally. You also can figure out the basic story but there is a depth here that is unexpected, showing how soldiers, both human and animal, deal with the after-effects of combat and how easily both are disposed of by society. Those rich layers add emotion to the story and while the plot is expected, it is still well told.
If you love stories about animals, this is definitely one to watch. While the character of a soldier isn’t unusual, a military dog is unique. The bond between the characters, their conflicts, and the humor that results will make audiences laugh. The film is beautiful, heartfelt, emotional, and worth every minute of your time. I really liked this film and loved Lulu.
Rating: 4 out of 5 muzzles.
DOG is a buddy comedy that follows the misadventures of two former Army Rangers paired against their will on the road trip of a lifetime. Army Ranger Briggs (Channing Tatum) and Lulu (a Belgian Malinois dog) buckle into a 1984 Ford Bronco and race down the Pacific Coast in hopes of making it to a fellow soldier’s funeral on time. Along the way, they’ll drive each other completely crazy, break a small handful of laws, narrowly evade death, and learn to let down their guards in order to have a fighting chance of finding happiness. DOG comes out exclusively in theaters on February 18th, 2022.
ONE-LINER: Two former Army Rangers are paired against their will on the road trip of a lifetime as Briggs (Channing Tatum) and Lulu (a Belgian Malinois), race down the Pacific Coast to a fellow soldier’s funeral on time.