Making his directorial debut along with Reid Carolin, who also wrote the screenplay, Channing Tatum stars as U.S. Army Ranger Jackson Briggs in DOG. Billed as a comedy --- and it is often hilarious --- DOG does manage to touch upon serious issues facing the women and men who have served in the armed forces.
Briggs is working a low-end job near Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the state of Washington. His efforts to get reinstated as a ranger have been blocked by his superior due to all the head trauma he suffered in Afghanistan, which is causing ongoing health issues.
His persistence finally pays off. He’s assigned to transport a fallen ranger’s Belgian Malinois working dog named Lulu to the man’s funeral in Nogales, Arizona. If Briggs accomplishes this task without any hitches, his commanding officer will recommend that he is fit for duty.
Obviously, the operative words are “without any hitches”, and as you would expect, Briggs and Lulu encounter almost too many to enumerate. Lulu has her own issues. She misses her handler, she’s not fond of most people --- particularly Briggs who knew her in combat --- and she hates having her ears touched. As these two misfits make their way down the Pacific Coast, lessons learned will change both their lives.
At first it looked like all the fun stuff was given away in the trailer --- and a lot is. But as I have already stated, DOG isn’t just a comedy. It’s eye opening as to how well these dogs are trained and how seriously they take their jobs. Three different canines were used to play Lulu and they are all marvelous.
But it is dependent upon Tatum and his chemistry with each to make this movie work. And it does --- brilliantly. It’s very apparent that Tatum is well aware of the importance of the bond he must form with his fellow “actors”. As Briggs and Lulu work to overcome their differences, DOG becomes so much more than a fluff buddy comedy.
Tatum had taken a four-year break from acting, and though his skills may never match those of someone like Benedict Cumberbatch, he knows his audience and what they like. DOG could have turned maudlin or insanely stupid, but it does neither. Carolin manages to tackle the very serious issue of PTSD without over-dramatizing the subject matter and risking damaging the narrative. This is a perfect role for Tatum.
DOG does tug at the heartstrings --- as any good film about our four-legged friends should do. But again, Carolin elicits just the right amount of sadness without beating the audience over the head.
I so wanted DOG to be good --- for Tatum’s sake and all the Lulus. I am thrilled to write that it’s better than good. DOG is great --- and beneficial. We give lip service to honoring those who have served our country. DOG does it in spades.
Opinion: See It Now!
If you’re thinking that DOG, the new Channing Tatum film is another MARLEY & ME or any other movie involving a faithful canine and its owner, it is not. It’s a serio-comic story where ex-Army Ranger Jackson Briggs (Tatum) is desperately trying to transport his deceased comrade’s dog to his funeral. The road trip takes Briggs and Lulu --- a Belgian Malinois --- down the Pacific Coast from Washington to Arizona over several days.
Briggs runs into all sorts of problems, not the least of which is Lulu escaping from their vehicle more than once, and later his old Bronco breaking down. Lulu must be muzzled to protect humans from her severe biting, and do NOT touch her ears! She is an Army veteran who saved countless soldiers’ lives with her heroics --- not seen but talked about in the film. But she misses her dear handler and the deceased soldier’s mother demanded that she attend the funeral service.
Briggs has an ulterior motive in that he will get the positive assessment he needs from an Army superior, Sgt. Riley Rodriguez (Eric Urbiztondo), so as to lock up a new assignment as a ranger --- if he completes the transport assignment.
Tatum co-directs DOG along with Reid Carolin --- it is the directorial debut for both men --- and writers Carolin and Brett Rodriguez inject just enough humor into the script to keep it relatively light. At one point Briggs, the handsome, beefy former Ranger, is in the middle of a drug-induced tryst with two beauties when Lulu manages to break up the moment.
We know instinctively that Briggs and Lulu will eventually get along, but to what degree? Will he turn her over to the Army? Will he entertain the idea of keeping Lulu? We learn from the closing credits that three different canines portray Lulu, which makes perfect sense since Lulu in the film is seen as vicious, uncooperative, and eventually friendly and even loveable. Kudos to the animal trainers for this superlative effort.
DOG is ultimately a sweet story that reinforces the bond between humans and animals. The funeral of the fallen ranger elicited more than a few tears from my illustrious writing partner. And Tatum is exceptional since his character spends a good deal of the movie talking to Lulu as they motor on. Thankfully Briggs never takes his eyes off the road for more than a second or two as he’s driving --- one of my cinematic pet peeves.
Opinion: See It Now!