Dog is an MGM/United Arts film directed and produced by Reid Carolin and Channing Tatum. Former Army Ranger Jackson Briggs (Tatum) is charged with bringing a Belgian Malinois named Lulu to the funeral of her handler. In return, Briggs—who suffered a major concussion during his tour of duty—will receive a new assignment overseas. So Briggs and Lulu head to Arizona, encountering numerous obstacles along the way.
Dog marks a unique turn in Tatum’s career; not only is this the first time he’s appeared on screen in five years – his brilliant cameo in Free Guy notwithstanding—but it also marks his directorial debut. Tatum apparently drew inspiration for the movie from his relationship with his dog, who was also named Lulu, and the HBO documentary War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend (he and Carolin both served as producers on War Dog). Tatum pours his heart into the role, showing off moments of tenderness and vulnerability that usually aren’t afforded to actors who look like him. For example, a scene where Briggs carries Lulu up a stretch of highway would crack even the hardest of hearts. The film also features quite a collection of supporting characters, including Emmy-Raver Lampman as a “tantric yoga instructor,” Bill Burr as a cop, and a virtually unrecognizable Ethan Suplee as one of Briggs’ fellow Army Rangers.
The majority of the film puts the focus on the bond between Briggs and Lulu, and it takes a while for the pair to warm up to each other. Lulu’s combat experiences have left her with lingering PTSD. Coupled with the loss of her handler, it’s made her rather violent. After she gets loose from her cage, she tears up Briggs’ car; she even bites a water bottle he’s trying to drink from. However, the duo bond during an encounter with a pair of weed farmers (Kevin Nash and Jane Adams), and from there, Briggs makes a conscious effort to understand his canine companion. Many TV shows, including Sweet Tooth and The Mandalorian, have found an audience due to their unlikely bonds, and Dog proves there’s room for that on the silver screen as well.
However, Carolin and co-writer Brett Rodriguez struggle to find a cohesive narrative. The film is essentially a collection of scenes that boil down to a single sequence of events: Briggs and Lulu travel to a place, Lulu causes chaos, and Briggs gets in trouble. The scene that ended up snapping my suspension of disbelief was a moment where Briggs pretends to be blind to score a free hotel room. This never sat right with me, and it felt like it belonged in a different film—one that had a more comedic bent. The film also vaguely gestures at heavier themes like Briggs’ fractured family or the nature of Lulu’s handler’s death, which is implied to be the result of PTSD. But Carolin and Rodriguez really should have fleshed those moments out.
Despite this, Tatum proves to be a fairly solid hand behind the camera, as he and Carolin take a tour through various parts of the U.S. From the upscale urban landscape of Portland to the arid deserts of Arizona, they take the time to explore each city and set the scene to songs, including “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. In addition, cinematographer Newton Thomas Siegel captures multiple “magic hour” shots of the sun setting as Briggs and Lulu sit on the hood of his car, which feels highly serene; he took a similar approach with the opening of Cherry. Tatum and Carolin truly lucked out by scoring a cinematographer of his caliber.
Dog may not reinvent the wheel when it comes to road trip movies, but Channing Tatum’s spirited performance and his connection with his canine companion serve as a solid hook. I recommend this film if you love himbos, dogs, road trips, or quite possibly all three.
Dog premieres in theaters nationwide on February 18, 2022.
- Rating - 7/107/10
Dog may not reinvent the wheel when it comes to road trip movies, but Channing Tatum’s spirited performance and his connection with his canine companion serve as a solid hook.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.