My curse to review any and all dog movies that make their way to theaters continues. Have you ever looked back at a decision you made years ago only to continuously regret it? Maybe it was asking out the popular girl in high school only to be publically rejected? For me, that’s promising to review all of these dog movies, and there is no dog movie doggier than Dog.
Guys, I don’t know how much longer I can take it. Between this, a new Paw Patrol movie, and the fact that I think the new Blue’s Clues movie counts as a dog movie (does it?), I’m at my breaking point. I need a good dog movie soon to keep me going because believe me, Dog is not that movie. Despite being billed as a comedy, it’s as funny as a funeral, and I do mean that quite literally.
Director: Channing Tatum, Reid Carolin
Release Date: February 18, 2022 (Theatrical)
Channing Tatum stars as a former Army Ranger Jackson Briggs who’s tasked with delivering his friend’s military dog Lulu to his funeral. Briggs is down on his luck and only agreed to do this job so that he can get a service recommendation from his former C.O., but didn’t expect how rough it would be taking care of Lulu. Lulu suffers from anxiety and is prone to attacking others, with Briggs thinking about this only as a job and nothing more. The two don’t get along, they start to bond, they have only a few days to make it to the funeral, yadda yadda yadda, comedy ensues.
Except, there is virtually no comedy in this movie. Over the hour and forty-one minute runtime of Dog, more than 75% of it is very serious. We see Tatum come to grips with PTSD he developed during his service, the physical trauma he has to bear with that can be debilitating, and did I mention that after the funeral the plan was to put Lulu down? In reality, the buddy road-trip comedy about a man and a dog is actually a depressing examination of post-war trauma and PTSD. You may begin laughing now.
It’s such a weird way to market the film that I almost had to remind myself numerous times that this was actually a comedy. I mean, there are funny moments inside of it, but they’re few and far between. Virtually all of the jokes come from the supporting cast that Tatum meets on his travels. There are hipsters from Portland, a giant drug dealer paranoid about the cartel, and two self-help sexual healers that provide a chuckle or two, but then they quickly fade away. If you’re going into this movie expecting to laugh, I don’t think you’ll be able to pull off that Herculean feat. I just can’t get over how very unfunny Dog wound up being by the time the credits rolled.
As a comedy, this movie completely fails, but let’s shift gears for a moment and examine it as a feel-good family film about a man bonding with a dog. If you look at Dog in that context, the film does a little bit better. There’s the expected arc that Tatum goes through in the film, though they really do drive home how unlikable Briggs is. He’s brash, arrogant, focused on getting drunk and having sex, and will only do things to benefit himself. This is meant to highlight how much Lulu does change his life for the better, but they really go a bit overboard at making him into a terrible person where by the end I still think he’s a jerk, but he’s at least open about not wanting to be as much of one.
But Dog does have a lot of unstated charm to it. There are these nice quiet little moments that the film does that seem to be intentional but the movie doesn’t draw your attention to it. Towards the middle of the film, Briggs meets a psychic who tells him that Lulu always wanted a big comfy bed, so the next scene has Briggs pretending he’s blind to score a free hotel room with a swanky bed for Lulu. The film draws a lot of attention to it, but a subtler and better moment was towards the end of the film where Briggs was staying in a hotel room and we see that it’s a room with two beds. Small little moments like that show an attention to detail and that this wasn’t just a slapdash job.
But this film feels weirdly like a personal project between its directors, Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin, both of whom made their directorial debuts with this. Tatum of course stars as Briggs and Carolin created the story and the screenplay. The two men have worked alongside each other since 2011’s 10 Years, doing films like the Magic Mike series, Logan Lucky, and White House Down. The two men I guess have a solid working relationship, but this film definitely has “first time director” written all over it. There’s nothing about the movie that really makes it stand out from the crowd outside of having a dog in it. I mean, I love dogs, but if you replaced the dog with a child then this would be a completely forgettable and snore-inducing excursion.
But what ultimately kills the movie is its framing as a comedy. If this was framed like any other dog movie where a man develops a friendship with a dog, I probably would have been more favorable towards it. Sure, the movie may not have been more financially viable if it was marketed like every other dog movie, but the tonal whiplash Dog induces is too great to overcome. Seriously, this is a movie where the climax is watching a dog look sad at a funeral while everyone stands around crying. As it stands, Dog is a mediocre movie through and through that I’m going to look back on in a month or so and be shocked that I actually saw it.