Comedy Dog

Review: ‘Dog’ is an Endearing Road Trip Dramedy That’s All About the Journey, Not the Destination

February 18, 2022Ben MK

As anyone who has ever owned a dog knows, having a pet pooch can be one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have, but, just like any relationship, what you get out of it depends on how much you put into it. In Dog, however, Channing Tatum plays a man who learns this lesson the hard way, after he's tasked with driving his late friend's dog across the country to pay their last respects. Will the pair make it in time, and will they have formed a special bond by the end of it? The answer may not be that surprising, but as the old saying goes, it's not the destination that matters, but the journey.

A former U.S. Army Ranger, Jackson Briggs (Tatum) longs to get back into the thick of the action. But given his history of traumatic brain injuries and his recent seizures, the odds of him returning to active duty are slim to none. Then, one day, Jackson receives the news that one of his fellow soldiers, Sergeant Riley Rodriguez (Eric Urbiztondo), has passed away. And with the funeral coming up in a matter of days, Jackson's commanding officer has volunteered him to drive Riley's multi-purpose canine, a female Belgian Malinois named Lulu, all the way from Washington State to Arizona so that she can be the guest of honor. The catch? After attending the funeral, Jackson is to drop Lulu off at the nearest military base, where she will likely be put down. Nonetheless, Jackson reluctantly agrees to the assignment, hoping that it will put him one step closer to being redeployed.

And so the duo sets off in Jackson's pickup truck, with Lulu muzzled and caged in the back. Of course, it doesn't take long for Jackson's canine cargo, who has suffered her fair share of trauma on the battlefield as well, to convince him to let her out of her restraints. But when Lulu ends up taking out her rage on the passenger seat while he's at a pit stop, it only marks the beginning of the misadventures the two of them will get into. From an almost-sexual encounter with a pair of women in Portland to almost being held captive by a weed farmer in the wilderness, Jackson's frustration with Lulu is relatable and genuinely earned at times. Yet, as he gets to know his travelling partner better through each subsequent, and oftentimes comic, episode, he also comes to realize just how similar they actually are. And it's through that understanding that both he and Lulu can finally begin to heal.

A joint directorial effort by both Tatum and Reid Carolin, what follows is an unabashedly tender and touching tale about one man's battle with his own personal demons and how an unexpected friendship helps him to find the peace he so desperately needs. At the same time, though, Dog is also an endearing buddy comedy that tries to make the most of its "man and man's best friend go on a road trip" premise. And despite how at odds these two sides of the film may seem, the result manages to integrate its more heartfelt moments nicely with its more humorous, painting an emotional character portrait that also serves up its fair share of laughs along the way.

It all adds up to Tatum's most dramatic role in a while. After all, moviegoers may be used to seeing him as either the sex symbol, the action star or the goofball, but this is clearly a story that's near and dear to his heart. If you're looking for another 21 Jump Street or Magic Mike, this certainly isn't it. But if you're in the mood for a tale that's as charming as it is life-affirming, Dog is proof positive that we all have the potential to learn new tricks.

Dog releases February 18th, 2022 from Elevation Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for language, thematic elements, drug content and some suggestive material. Its runtime is 1 hr. 41 min.

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