Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 5, 2022)
After nearly 20 years in Hollywood, Channing Tatum finally goes behind the camera with 2022’s Dog. Along with co-director Reid Carolin, Tatum does double duty, as he also stars in the film.
US Army Ranger Jackson Briggs (Tatum) suffers from combat-caused concussions, and this means he can’t get new assignments. Without other options, he struggles for money and becomes desperate for reinstatement.
Briggs finds a chance for new work when he learns someone needs to escort military canine Lulu to the funeral of Briggs’ fellow soldier Riley Rodriguez. Lulu served with both Briggs and Rodriguez during combat, and because Lulu bonded with Rodriguez, his family wants the pooch at the ceremony.
The problem? Lulu suffers from PTSD of her own and seems so unmanageable that the military plans to put her down immediately after the funeral. Briggs needs to transport this aggressive dog from Tacoma, Washington to Nogales, Arizona, a trek that provides a slew of challenges
If you watch the trailer for Dog or look at any of the film’s publicity materials, you’ll probably expect it to offer a comedy. The movie’s tagline reads “a filthy animal unfit for human company and a dog”, and the back of the Blu-ray case refers to the flick as “the misadventure of a lifetime”.
Anyone who expects a 2022 version of Turner and Hooch or some other kid-friendly laughfest will encounter profound disappointment with Dog. While not devoid of comic moments, the flick delivers a serious tale the majority of the time.
If I thought hard, I might come up with another movie the got misrepresented as badly as Dog, but off the top of my head, none occur to me. I find it hard to overstate just how different the “buddy comedy” promised in ads and the final product appear.
Judged on its own merits divorced from these presold expectations, Dog becomes a fairly mediocre drama, partly because it does nod toward the comedy at times. The movie suffers from an odd internal inconsistency, almost like those involved made it up as they went.
Even if we ignore the misrepresentation from the ads, Dog can’t stick to a straight line, especially in the way it depicts its canine lead. While the film promises Lulu as a violent menace, the movie doesn’t back that up too often.
As much as the movie wants us to view Lulu as close to irredeemable, it never goes far enough. We get occasional signs that the dog behaves aggressively, but the story favors a softer approach much of the time.
This doesn’t really make sense. If Lulu presents such a menace that she needs to be euthanized, then she shouldn’t seem as cute and charming as she usually does.
The inconsistency extends to other areas. While not as comedic as the promos implied, Dog still digs into some light shenanigans, all theoretically to act as part of the bonding between Jackson and Lulu.
Instead, these episodes feel more like filler to add some spice to the proceedings. I guess those involved figured a movie almost entirely about a guy and a dog wouldn’t seem sufficient for a feature film, so they send our leads down a mix of detours.
These add some variety and a few plot nuggets, but they mostly come across as padding. It seems like those involved lacked the confidence to allow the movie to follow the man/animal relationship at its heart as fully as it should.
Despite these issues, Dog becomes a watchable tale. It moves at a reasonable clip, and Tatum does nicely as our troubled lead. He balances the role’s dramatic and comedic sides well and blends these into a quality performance.
Dog also becomes a decent tale of redemption even with its inconsistencies. It comes with a good message and allows us to bond with the characters.
Still, I can’t help but wish the filmmakers showed more confidence in the material and didn’t water it down like they do. Dog tries to serve too many masters, and the end result lacks the tonal consistency it needs.