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Directed by Reid Carolin and Channing Tatum
Written by Reid Carolin and Brett Rodriguez
Starring Channing Tatum, Kevin Nash and a dog
Classification PG; 90 minutes
Opening Feb. 18 in theatres
I know that I’m not alone when I say that, in the year 2022, we either want to watch movies that speak with a prescient urgency to our present moment, or films that allow us to completely dissociate from it. Luckily for those seeking the latter, there is Dog. Directed by Reid Carolin of the Magic Mike franchise alongside long-time collaborator Channing Tatum (also starring), Dog is a fitting film for the burnt-out and brain-fogged masses.
Loosely inspired by Tatum’s own beloved rescue dog Lulu (who passed away in 2018), Dog follows former U.S. Army Ranger Briggs (Tatum) who, despite having incurred a traumatic brain injury in the field, is desperate to get his former job back. As Briggs begins to lose hope that he will ever get approved for duty, his former commanding officer makes him a deal: Drive a retired combat dog across the country so that she can be the guest of honour at her former handler’s funeral, and Brigg’s fitness for fieldwork will be reconsidered.
Lulu, a Belgian Malinois, is aggressive and easily triggered by certain sights and sounds. As a former Army Ranger herself, both Lulu and Briggs have served their country and have the continuing physiological ramifications to prove it. This dynamic comes second to a series of one-sided dialogues from Briggs to Lulu, played sincerely, goofily and all the ways in-between.
At a sharp 90 minutes, Dog is somewhat aware of just how long the Channing Tatum Show can sustain itself, with everyone’s favourite himbo playing up his trademark farcical machismo on screen. From reaching the heights of falsetto while singing along to The Lion Sleeps Tonight, to eating edibles in a floral kimono, Tatum hits the notes of slapstick sincerity that have peppered his films. Just how much the actor is potentially improvising becomes part of Dog’s fun, with Tatum glibly throwing out lines such as “I’ve been shot by the Taliban” as he tries to pick up girls (plural) at a bar.
Alongside an appearance from Magic Mike alum Kevin Nash as a cuddly pacifist cannabis-grower and the perfectly cast Jane Adams as his pet-psychic partner, the first half of Dog is full of laughs and an unexpected self-awareness. From satiric riffs on the quirky specificities of Portlanders to a put-on criticism of warfare from Briggs himself (again, an attempt to pick up girls), Carolin and Tatum’s film almost undoes the banal patterning of its own generic archetype.
This refreshing nature fizzles out as the film continues, though, returning to more rote narrative ebbs and flows. If Dog’s first half is energetic and fresh, the second is one that loses steam, unfolding exactly as one would expect. There is perhaps only so much we can watch of Briggs almost interminably losing hold on Lulu’s leash or finding himself stranded yet again. At one point, Lulu mistakenly attacks a Muslim couple and the film isn’t quite sure how to solidly resolve its own problematics. The scene is, in many ways, a marker for where the fun ends, leaving us instead in solidly corny territory.
Lulu gaffe aside, there’s nothing wrong with corny, and it is indeed what many of us might be searching for right now. The beauty of a film such as Dog is that it is one of many, omnipresent in its ordinariness and commonplace in its undertaking – a brain holiday, if you will. It’s another notch in the filmography of a crowd-pleasing A-lister, another run-of-the-mill movie to emote with when we can’t feel much else.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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