Review: DOG Starring Channing Tatum, Q’orianka Kilcher, Emmy Raver-Lampman
Channing Tatum and producing partner Reid Carolin’s directorial debut Dog, a buddy-cop type comedy that consists of man and his best friend, is out today in theaters.
Being his first feature behind the camera, Tatum delivered quite a different type of film compared to previous flicks partnering with Reid (Magic Mike XXL for example). The story follows Briggs (played by Tatum,) a former army ranger haunted by his previous time served in the military, who is a lost man with a drinking problem searching for a purpose and meaning to his life. After the death of his friend in a tragic car accident, Briggs is promised a job if able to deliver the companion of his comrade, Lulu, a Belgian Malinois (portrayed by three of the best good girls: Britta, Lana, and Zuza) to the memorial. A former ranger herself, Lulu is just as haunted as Briggs, and is even more closed off after being separated from her partner.
As the duo travels cross country, we see the ups and downs both face, and the misunderstanding present between man and dog seems to be the driving point of the plot. From a near-death experience, to an odd encounter with an exotic pair of tantric gurus, and a hotel fiasco that delivers equal parts heart and humor, the typical schtick of the road trip dramedy formula is met quite nicely. As the pair continue their venture, their understanding of one another becomes a bonding experience, each empathizing for the other and the trauma they each carry.
The film is exactly what I was expecting. I wasn’t searching for some post-war travel epic featuring damaged characters that seems to leave a lonesome feeling with the audience, but instead, expected a well-balanced performance cohesively delivering hilarious hijinks and a deeper understanding of trauma. Dog delivered both, and seemed to develop a steady pace that never at times seems too funny or too sad. It pulls at your heartstrings just enough before loosening the grip to let you giggle a bit.
I think the film also sets strides in that it features both characters equally. Obviously, Tatum has always delivered charm and charisma on screen, but the focus never seems to specifically single him out when compared to the title character. In fact, the majority of the feel-good scenes are when the two share the screen, creating better chemistry than you’d imagine. I think it’s also interesting how the film delves into the idea of Briggs’ masculinity, softening it and normalizing the idea of empathy and understanding.
Another standout of the film is the development of not only the audience’s understanding of the aftermath of war and its effects on the psyche (both human and K-9), but how it creates a connection between both our protagonists. Their discovery of one another, while outplayed so the audience can speculate and respect, seems to be the center of the film – the purpose around which it revolves.
Is this film breaking new ground with an original story that leaves audiences astounded? Of course not. Is it a feel-good movie with Channing Tatum and a dog that creates an unbreakable bond? Yes, just like it was advertised. There is no sense of prestige or cringe in regards to this film specifically. I think it’s rounded, as fleshed out as it needs to be, and does exactly what it meant to do, and that is exactly why audiences are going to see this film.
If you go in and you don’t like it, ask yourself why you were seeing it in the first place. It’s sweet, silly, serious (but never too much), and is a wholesome and enjoyable flick. Dog is now playing exclusively in theaters everywhere.