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Dog

****
2022

‘…Dog is a low-key charmer…’

On paper, a dog movie starring Channing Tatum doesn’t sound much like a must-see film; that crab-apple critic’s expectation proves entirely wrong, and welcome evidence that the sleeper hit can still happen even in 2022. Co-directing with writer Reid Carolin, Tatum’s Dog is a low-key charmer that probably isn’t for kids or the family audience that might be expected from the cutsey poster; instead, this is a film squarely about PTSD, but one that resolves with barely a shot fired other than in a funeral salute.

Instead, we meet Jackson Briggs (Tatum), a US Army Ranger who has returned to his home country, but still bears the physical and mental scars of his tours of duty. Briggs is entrusted with a tricky mission; a comrade has fallen, and Briggs has to transport a highly-trained military dog to Arizona for his handler’s funeral. Of course, Lulu is no ordinary dog; she’s got her own PTSD, and can’t forget her training, leading her to tear up car-seats through her own anxiety, and also to target innocent foreigners; Lulu’s ‘greatest hits’ DVD is grim watching. This pairing leads to all manner of difficulties for Briggs, but as man and dog approach their grim graveside goal, a bond is struck that helps them both see the world with a bit more clarity.

Tatum deals himself a great hand here; he’s able to suggest the physicality of a hardened soldier, but also the charm to make an outwardly tough character easy to engage with; there’s a stand-out scene in which Briggs, cornered in a police ID line-up, begs for forgiveness for himself and his dog after sneaking into a posho hotel in disguise as a blind veteran and his seeing eye dog. His crime is serious, but his plea is successful; as a movie, Dog is humanitarian at heart, refusing to demonise anyone, but offering a compassionate take on the tough side of American life today. And notably, Dog refuses to Disney-fy the animal in question; instead, it does more than most to get into the head of Biggs’ canine pal, and understand why their training provides a problem when back on civvy street.

Dog takes a few surprising pit-stops, with attempted threesomes and petty theft providing bumps along the way. But this is a rare film that focuses on spiritual development, fake and real, and should be an eye-opener for anyone who doesn’t know about the historical background to using animals in war. Lulu didn’t sign up for what she gets, and Briggs probably didn’t either; they make a heroic couple in this thoughtful, engaging movie about a rugged lonely boy and his even more rugged, lonely dog, and how they provide meaning in each other’s life.

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    • The Power of the Dog is the direct sequel to Digby The Biggest Dog in the World. This is from the same cinematic universe.

  1. This is interesting…..not at all what I thought this film would be about. Based on the trailer, I thought it was in the vein of “Marley and Me.” I liked that film, but one is enough. This sounds like something that I haven’t seen before, and I’m always looking for that. Moving this one to my “definitely maybe” pile.

    • It’s a really neat little film that somehow rises to profound. Recommended for sure. Not Marley and Me, and the dog DOES NOT die.

  2. A female friend of mine, when this trailer appeared on TV: “Ugh, I’m so over Channing Tatum. Put a shirt on, already. And give a tee to Zack Efron while you’re at it.” She’s not a fan of Hollywood. You should hear her light into Ashton Kutchner!

    • And Tatum is in great shape here! But this is a proper word of mouth film, and should help spring him from the film marked HUNK to the file marked ACTOR.

      • This is what I’ve been reading: he delivers and it’s seen as a transitional role. I believe I read he wasn’t all that thrilled with G.I Joe. I like ’em him. I thought he was fine in White House Down.

        • I can’t say I was thrilled with his work in GI Joe, so that’s something we have in common.

  3. Agree with you wholeheartedly. Excellent picture tackling a difficult subject. The trailer and the marketing suggested something quite different but my guess is judging from the continued box office that once in the cinema audiences accepted the story as presented, enjoyed the company of the two principals and wondered once again why Tatum has not quite had the parts to fit his acting ability. He might be on a roll with The Lost City appearing in a couple of weeks.

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