Channing Tatum learns some new tricks as the co-director and star..
Channing Tatum and his fellow collaborator Reid Carolin (“Magic Mike,” “Logan Lucky”) both make their directorial debuts of “Dog,” which shows us the comical and affectionate relationship between a selfish former US Army Ranger and an aggressive war dog.
Although it takes us to familiar territories, it still has the kind of potential for an actor’s directorial debut that Halle Berry wanted to have in “Bruised.” It’s mostly because of how well Tatum and Carolin are able to get the right team of dog trainers to make sure the dog actors are able to show off some barks as the one dog character.
The selfish former US Army Ranger is Jackson Briggs (Tatum), whose medical history kept him out of the military. His only chance is to bring a Belgian Malinois military working dog named Lulu to the family funeral of a fellow soldier in Arizona, because she was his handler. She’s the aggressive war dog.
They become an Odd Couple, as she drives him up the wall with how she chews the leather on the car they’re driving in, and how he isn’t much of a dog person. Their chemistry is much better than Harrison Ford’s connection with that CGI dog in “The Call of the Wild,” especially since the dog is 100% alive.
The movie has to feature some boring and random montages about Briggs trying and failing to get lucky at a local bar, and then hanging out with two dog lovers. They don’t have much meaning, but there are other subplots that entertained me.
In one subplot, Lulu escapes from the car, and runs off into the woods and leads Briggs to a weed garden, where he gets tranquilized by the owner Gus (Kevin Nash), who is brainwashed into thinking he’s a terrorist. He escapes to fight back, only to be confirmed by the old man’s wife (Jane Adams) that he just has some problems, and they’re good people. In fact, she helps Briggs learn to connect with Lulu.
Other subplots involve Briggs pretending to be blind so he and the dog can score a free hotel room, which temporarily lands them in trouble. He also teams up with another soldier (Ethan Supple), who knows Lulu, in order to track down their stolen goods. And he doesn’t have the courage to reunite with his family.
I’ve knocked some missed opportunities of dog movies like “A Dog’s Way Home,” “A Dog’s Journey,” and “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” because while they had affectionate voice actors speaking for their canine characters’ thoughts, their should have been smarter and more considerate. “Dog” doesn’t let the dog speak through its mind, but it allows it to express itself through barking, whining, panting, and running. Lulu is supposed to act like a dog; and her dog actors all act well as army dogs.
Tatum also acts well as the former soldier, who has to be aggravated by his passenger’s aggressive behavior, while taking his time to get to know her. As co-directors, he and Carolin are able to expand their horizons as filmmakers, and they have produced features before.
Carolin wrote the screenplay along with Brett Rodriguez, and while their story takes U-turns with two bar socializing scenes and a would-be sex scene, they still focus on how these two different species with issues of their own can still overcome their differences and connect in the end. And their friendship cuts back on the obligatory adoption problem cliches, which is beyond refreshing.
Either dog movies are getting smarter in recent memory or my canine nieces Kona and Remi are both warming up to me. Maybe it’s both, and I should hope so.