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‘Dog’ Is Not What You Think It Is
‘Dog’ may not be what you expect. The trailers for ‘Dog’ hinted at a movie about an Army Ranger healing from trauma, and the movie itself occasionally touches on that. For a good portion of the movie, however, you’re in for a buddy comedy that concerns itself more with poking fun at what doesn’t heal trauma than with the healing process itself.
Channing Tatum brings all his charms to the role of Briggs, a man traumatized and saddled with brain injuries after his service as an Army Ranger. Barred from further service due to his injuries, Briggs is offered a way back in by his old captain (Luke Forbes): escort the recently deceased Sgt. Rodriguez’s dog, Lulu, to Rodriguez’s funeral, and Cpt. Jones will make a call. Lulu, however, is as traumatized as Briggs, and what Briggs expects to be an easy task winds turns out to be more of an adventure than he bargained for.
‘Dog’ – Behind the Scenes
That adventure consists of several detours that take place between long driving shots underscored by the greatest hits of the road trip genre. The hangups are as often the fault of Briggs’ negligence as of Lulu’s anxiousness, and sometimes feel a little contrived for a movie about healing from trauma. You wouldn’t expect, based on the premise, a thriller sequence involving a tranquilizer dart and the line “Squeal for me, boy.” If you’re anything like me, you might check your ticket to see if you accidentally entered a screening of ‘Deliverance.’
Channing Tatum’s Pet Project
This movie is quintessentially Tatum. He co-wrote and directed this movie alongside Reid Carolin. The duo behind ‘Magic Mike’ made sure to keep the fun going, and didn’t forget to recast Tatum’s torso. While we do get to see a broader display of emotion from Tatum in the moments where Briggs is brought low by his injuries, the sensibility of the movie doesn’t become too heavy or feel like Oscar bait.
The many comic vignettes that make up the first half of the movie feel like safe choices until you consider them as a whole. The direction and tone suggest that you should be laughing and having a good time, smirking at Portlandia, and getting a big kick out of Bill Burr. Yet, the movie ends with a montage so saccharin it almost feels like a medicine ad. It’s a big risk on the part of Tatum and Carolin. It presumes their audience will shift as suddenly as they do between cynicism and sensitivity, humor and grief.
‘Dog’ – In-Depth Scoop with Channing Tatum
You Can’t Put A Good Dog Down
In an interview with EW, Channing Tatum said he wanted to avoid making this a dog-that-dies movie in the vein of ‘Old Yeller’ or ‘Marley And Me.’ “I think that’s one of those deadly sins…kill the one thing that everyone loves in a movie.”
For all of its tonal confusion, ‘Dog’ succeeds at letting the audience participate in the traumatic elements of the story to the extent they choose. If you are in a place to experience catharsis, ready to set cynicism aside and release, ‘Dog’ features a few key moments for that to happen. If you’d rather have some laughs, or some “awws” from the performances of the three dogs that play Lulu, you’re in good hands.
The movie seems geared towards someone like Briggs, someone who hasn’t worked out their traumas, but who may be ready to start. It plays in the middle ground and meets you where you’re at. Briggs sums it up nicely in one of the projections of his feelings onto Lulu: “Don’t get all misty-eyed on me, friend.” That’s the sort of line that I imagine elicited as many chuckles as it did tears.
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In-Depth Scoop – Director Reid Carolin
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For The Dog Lovers
Carolin and Tatum have worked with war dogs before. They both helped to produce the 2017 HBO documentary ‘War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend,’ and did their best to represent what they learned in ‘Dog.’ In a Q&A for United Services Organizations, the team behind the road trip movie opened up about their experiences working with the Belgian Shepherds that played Lulu. “It’s impossible for Hollywood to get these movies correct,” Tatum admitted, but they brought on as consultants the Army Ranger handlers they met during their time onset for ‘War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend,’ and the handlers feel the movie was pretty realistic.
For those of us with less expertise, the realism matters less than the show, and if you love dogs you will not be disappointed. Producer Brett Rodriguez said of war dogs in that same Q&A, “Being exposed to them and hearing everything they’ve done and gone through was the most illuminating and interesting thing that we experienced.” The team’s efforts to share that experience with the audience are apparent. We get to know Lulu as the movie progresses. She lashes out in some scenes, runs in fear in others, and in still others acts as a comfort to Briggs.
In-Depth Scoop – Channing Tatum & Reid Carolin
It doesn’t hurt that the dogs that play Lulu are beautiful, and the cinematography works to highlight it. When the funeral scene finally comes, Lulu rushes to rest her head on her former owner’s boots, and that simple act of grief is the most touching part of the funeral. So dog lovers be wary of your heartstrings, as they may need some tending to after the movie.
After Watching ‘Dog,’ Knock On Your Friend’s Door
Tatum has shown some promise in his first directorial outing. He and Carolin treat the story with care and give it a distinct touch. Perhaps the most important scene in ‘Dog’ shows Briggs forming a connection with Noah (Ethan Suplee), another ex-Ranger and the owner of Lulu’s twin. Without spoiling too much, we get to see the Rangers and their dogs see where Briggs might end up if he doesn’t get help. At the end of the scene, Noah says that sometimes the hardest thing to do is just knock on a friend’s door.
In Conversation – Channing Tatum & Reid Carolin
If I had to guess, I’d say Tatum and Carolin wanted this movie to inspire some door-knocking. Bring a friend to this one, and when you make your rounds knocking on doors maybe you can start the conversation off with ‘The Lost City.’ Channing Tatum will star in it alongside Sandra Bullock and Brad Pitt.
By Kevin Hauger
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