After a recent tour of duty has left him injured and suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, US Army Ranger Jackson Briggs is struggling to make it through each day. His job is unappealing, his homelife is a cycle of pain and cold sweats, and his relationship with his daughter is non-existent.
Keen to regain direction, he tries multiple attempts to get taken back into the US Army. One of these attempts includes approaching his old captain, and asking for his help to get re-enlisted.
His captain is against the idea at first, but finally agrees to the request so long as Jackson performs an important task for him: To take a service dog called Lulu, from the Army barracks in Washington to a funeral in Arizona. Lulu belonged to one of Jackson’s friends and colleagues, who sadly passed away, and his family have requested the dog attend the funeral.
While Jackson is less-than thrilled by the task, especially considering Lulu’s temperamental and often vicious behaviour, he agrees. However, the mission doesn’t just involve the destination – once the trip is complete, Lulu is to be taken to an Army base and put to sleep.
Jackson has less than a week to carry out his orders, and ensure Lulu makes it to the funeral. But will he be able to complete this task and say goodbye to his hostile four-legged frenemy, or will this road trip turn into a rescue mission?
OK, OK, before I go any further let me tell you a couple of key details about the above plot summary, and then I will let you into a little confession. I have something to get off my chest, and I feel it is important to lay all of my cards on the table.
So, first thing to mention is that the plot summary I’ve just presented at the top of this post is in connection to the comedy road movie, Dog – a new film from directors Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin. The movie is currently playing in UK and US cinemas, and stars Tatum in the lead role, alongside supporting players including Kevin Nash, and Ethan Suplee.
The second thing to mention is my confession, which is as follows: This movie combines two of my favourite things: Channing Tatum and a dog. I like both of these things in equal measure.
If you put Channing Tatum in a movie, I will happily give it a watch. If you put a dog in a movie, it is also likely to grab my attention.
I’m telling you this because I want you to understand that regardless of any perceived ‘bias’ over my liking for Tatum and dogs, I do plan on being impartial and fair to this film. My review will not be swayed by how handsome Tatum is (and he really is) nor will it be influenced by the absolutely delightful dog.
I promise the following opinion is based on professionalism. I certainly don’t want anyone accusing me of a conflict of interest, or claiming that I am inflating my opinion of this movie because I think Channing Tatum is dreamy… or something along those lines.
What I am about to tell you is the truth. And the truth is: Dog is a sweet, heartfelt film, which is enjoyable to watch. It isn’t Citizen Canine, nor is it a dog’s dinner. It is instead a film which does exactly what you expect it to do, and it does it well.
The film essentially tells a well-worn story of two characters, who don’t get on, who are then forced on a trip together, and who eventually find common ground. There’s much soul-searching along the way, as well as a few moments of turmoil, and a smattering of humour.
At no point does the movie deviate from this tried-and-tested formula, but that’s fine, because it also doesn’t put a foot wrong. It knows how to deliver the emotional highs and lows at exactly the right time, ensuring the audience comes away having watched the movie they expected to see.
So, if you are itching to watch Channing Tatum and a dog taking the starring roles in a big screen movie, this is pretty much what you get. If this is not what you want to watch, then maybe check out one of the many other films currently playing in cinemas.
But to ensure this film isn’t just standard fluff, Dog also makes sure to inject a little bit of social commentary. Although the film focuses a great deal of its attention on its two stars, there is a little wiggle room for some important issues, and this means you are getting a little more depth with your Tatum/dog combo.
There are a number of scenes in the film which highlight the disposability of service officers – both human and animal. There is also sequence which touches upon racism and there are scenes which showcase the impact of PTSD.
This isn’t just a bog-standard film; it does make some attempts to raise a few issues. Sure, it could go into a little more depth here and there, but at the very least it does serve up some talking points.
And then along with all this is a good-looking movie, which ticks various technical boxes and offers up some nice visuals. As this is a road movie there are various shots of the US landscape, and at time it all looks magnificent and incredibly inviting.
So, while Dog takes a nuts-and-bolts approach to the vast majority of its narrative, there is a little more going on here than at first glance. The film wants to engage with its audience, to make this more than just a film about two characters caught up in conflict, and it wants to do it while looking appealing.
I don’t expect anyone to have an epiphany while watching Dog, nor do I expect countless Academy Award members to scrap this year’s Best Picture nominees and declare Dog the outright winner. But I do expect that anyone going into this movie hoping to be entertained, will come out the other side having that expectation fulfilled.
Dog is a well-meaning film, with a great deal of heart. The story is touching and uplifting, Tatum is a likeable lead, and the finished product is enjoyable in all the right places.
You don’t need to be a Channing Tatum super-fan to like this movie, nor do you need to adore dogs to watch it, however, if either of these things apply then you are sure to connect with this picture. Dog is pleasing stuff.
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