Released in cinemas earlier this year, Dog is the directorial debut of Channing Tatum as he stars as an army ranger trying to bring his deceased friend’s military dog across country in time for his funeral. Advertised as a buddy comedy, Dog is instead a charming, heart-warming and rather serious drama with a poignant story.
Jointly directed by Tatum and Reid Carolin, Tatum stars as ex-U.S Army Ranger Jackson Briggs, unfit for service due to a brain injury and currently working in a sandwich bar. He’s attempting to get a new position back in the army in Pakistan but is struggling to obtain sign-off from his commanding officers. Briggs is notified that his former partner Riley (Eric Urbiztondo) has died in a car accident and after attending a wake in which he begged his commanding officer to recommend him for the job, he is summoned to the army base the next morning.
His commanding officer gives Briggs a special assignment; to transport his partner’s military dog Lulu across country to attend his funeral in a few days’ time and in return he’ll receive the job recommendation he needs. The only problem is that following years of service Lulu has developed very aggressive behaviour, and following the funeral, Briggs must escort her to base to be euthanised.
Reluctantly Briggs agrees to the assignment and heads out onto the road with Lulu, who is caged and muzzled in the back of his truck. Despite being on assignment, Briggs is determined to enjoy himself and a number of pitstops at a shooting range and some late-night clubbing leads to clashes and incidents with Lulu. After a run-in with a backwoods farmer (Kevin Nash), an attempted visit to Briggs’ estranged family and a meeting with a former army ranger who has rehabilitated Lulu’s brother (Ethan Suplee), Briggs and Lulu finally begin to bond and understand each other as they try to reach Riley’s funeral in time.
The trailer for Dog makes it out to be a silly, buddy comedy and it’s really doing this film a disservice as it’s actually an incredibly serious drama that’s full of a great deal of heart. There are some comic elements here, mostly thanks to Briggs’ monologuing to Lulu, and this comic side does work, but it’s the serious storyline about life for post-war veterans that really makes this shine. The buddy road trip movie has been done so many times before, but what makes Dog rise above the rest is the focus on army veterans and of course, an army dog. It doesn’t shy away from the trauma and effects of the army on anyone, human or dog, and gives a more touching buddy movie than I had been expecting.
Admittedly the plot itself is rather predictable and you know how it’ll end before it even starts, but the joy of this film is in the journey. It looks good with some beautiful shots of the U.S. landscape, complete with an often haunting score. Tatum puts in a stellar show and is so incredibly charming and charismatic, in what could quite possibly be his best performance to date. In a film about a dog, he gives the adorable dog a definite run for her money and it’s his performance that makes this film so enjoyable to watch. It’s a shame that he’s let down a little by the plot and some of the pitstops his character takes along the way. Some of these pitstops are genius – Briggs’ encounter with Kevin Nash’s farmer is especially entertaining and Ethan Suplee’s army vet is incredibly poignant – but others are a little trite and unnecessary or just don’t feel in keeping with the truly serious nature of the story. But despite these unnecessary diversions, I still found myself welling up at all of the heart-warming and emotional scenes.
Dog is so much more than just your average buddy comedy. It’s not perfect, but it’s a wonderfully touching drama that is full of so much heart, with what is likely Channing Tatum’s best performance so far.
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!