Desperate to get back onto active duty, ex-marine ranger Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum) agrees to embark on a road trip to take Lulu, a Belgian Malinois and former war dog with issues, to her handlers’ funeral.
Dog is a pretty standard buddy-road movie with the added becoming-attached-to-a-problematic pet trop. That’s not to say it’s bad, the fact that it hits a lot of the typical narrative beats while being anchored by a solid performance by Tatum makes it enjoyable. It’s almost an easy-watch in the best way because you know how things have to turn out, but like Briggs and Lulu’s road trip, it’s the journey there that makes its rewarding.
A lot of the themes and issues presented in Dog are done so in broad strokes. Briggs has been discharged due to his multiple injuries when he was a marine ranger, including brain injuries, and he’s alone. It’s easy to see why he’s desperate to get back in the field when he lives alone with scattered bottles on his bedroom floor and the only time he seems to be around fellow soldiers is when they’re at a wake for a fallen comrade.
There’s both criticism and praise of the US military system – though the praise is mostly of the individuals who went to war and the sacrifices they made rather than of the institution as a whole. It’s easy to see Briggs, and other military veterans like him as abandoned by the system they put so much time, effort and their lives into. Like Lulu, he has no support system and they are both going through the after affects of their trauma. Lulu can be vicious and but she’s also scared of thunder storms while Briggs has migraines and sometimes can’t see straight.
Channing Tatum and his charisma and likeability, along with the great relationship he has with Lulu (played by three different dogs) makes Dog a fun and pleasant way to spend 90 minutes. That being said, as Lulu has been trained to attack anyone in middle eastern clothing or who makes her feel threatened, there’s an underlying sense of foreboding anytime she and Briggs are near other people. She’s like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off and while we can understand that, the person she may attacks certainly won’t.
Dog is a film that’s likely to make you laugh and tear up as these two broken characters can maybe help each other to heal. It’s sweet without getting overly sentimental and overall it’s just a nice film. 3/5.