(2022) (Channing Tatum) (PG-13)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Drama: A former Army Ranger agrees to drive an aggressive Belgian Malinois 1,500 miles to the funeral of her former military handler.
Jackson Briggs (CHANNING TATUM) is a former Army Ranger who suffered a brain injury in combat and is looking to land a diplomatic security job. But he needs mental health clearance for the gig and a recommendation from his former captain. That officer only agrees if Jackson will transport a Belgian Malinois named Lulu 1,500 miles from the nearby base to the funeral of her former military handler who Jackson served with but recently drove into a tree in an apparent suicide.
Despite the dog's reputation of being ultra-aggressive, Jackson agrees, assuming it won't be that difficult if he takes the necessary precautions. But he soon learns that Lulu is more than a handful as they encounter a variety of characters along the way, during which the man and dog slowly begin to bond.
- OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
I'm friends with a highly decorated, retired police officer who worked in the Special Operations and K-9 divisions of his police force. Like most such officers, he took his canine officer with him when he left, and when I first met the dog, I was understandably concerned about how to approach.
My friend assured me it was cool, and the dog bounded up to me like a big ol' puppy, happy and eager and showing no signs of being a highly trained animal, ready to attack and violently subdue humans if given the command. Thankfully, but naturally, not surprisingly, that didn't occur, but it came to mind while watching the simply titled man and his pooch, road trip flick, "Dog."
Rather than serving for the police, however, the titular Belgian Malinois here is a military veteran, although I honestly can't say if there's much difference in the way such dogs are trained. What everyone can say about her, though, is that since her handler's death, Lulu belies her nice, gentle-sounding name and will bite the hand of one who feeds her. Or touches her ears. Or looks at her the wrong way. Or thinks Lulu is a cute name.
That makes the assignment given to former Army Ranger Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum) -- driving the dog 1,500 miles to her handler's funeral -- dicey to say the least. Of course, having served in active combat means Briggs can handle most anything, and since he needs to accomplish this task to get his former captain to give him the green light for a government security job, he's determined to make it happen.
All of which means things will obviously go wrong along the way in this 90-minute offering from writer/director Reid Carolin and Tatum as co-director. It's part drama and part comedy (the sequence that must be some sort of homage to a similar moment in "Pulp Fiction" had me in stitches once it revealed what it was trying to do), while also a serious look at veterans' issues, including the after-effects of combat.
Not surprisingly -- since many road trip flicks follow the same trajectory -- the two initially don't get along but end up bonding through their time together and the experiences they share. Likewise, the two help each other heal from their war and service-related maladies, all of which means by the time the end credits are cued up and waiting for -- well, their cue to roll -- you might just find yourself a tad emotional regarding the duo.
That is, if you can tolerate some of the weird material that shows up before that, including the soldier looking to get lucky with some tantric-focused ladies as well as the aforementioned Tarantino inspired bit that initially looks like it's going in a direction incongruous with the rest of the film before turning decidedly silly.
The three Belgian Malinoises have no problem being convincing in their role, thus leaving the heavy lifting to Tatum who's more than up for the task in delivering a damaged and flawed but engaging character we come to like and root for. Much like the film that may have some issues, but otherwise is an entertaining and ultimately emotionally effective offering. "Dog" rates as a 6 out of 10.
Reviewed February 15, 2022 / Posted February 18, 2022
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