Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 41 minutes, Directors – Reid Carolin, Channing Tatum
In the hope of being readmitted to the army, despite initial warnings from doctors, Army Ranger Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum) is tasked with travelling across the Pacific Coast to take veteran dog Lulu to the funeral of a fellow Ranger.
To give you an idea of just what kind of film Dog is, there’s a sequence part way through in which we see Channing Tatum as Army Ranger Jackson Briggs travelling along the Pacific Coast with Belgian Shepherd Lulu while Kenny Rogers’ The Gamble plays. The two (or rather Tatum) appear to have set aside their (Tatum’s) differences and settled in for a calm remainder of their journey. Both have seen and felt the impact of the terrors of war, and while Lulu suffers from anxiety and is known to be sensitive and easily agitated, Jackson is eager to get back into the field, despite doctors notices that he’s suffering from a permanent brain injury. Claiming to have a clean bill of health from a recent inspection Jackson asks his commanding officer what it will take for him to be allowed into the next rotation with all his Army Ranger friends, or rather family as the opening scrapbook-style credits show.
His mission is to deliver Lulu to the funeral of her handler of multiple tours, a few days trip down the Pacific Coast, before taking her to barracks where she will be put down due to not being of use in the field anymore. It seems easy enough to Jackson and so he and the initially caged and aggressive dog set off in his truck to the location of his fellow soldier’s funeral. It’s a fairly direct and conventional route that the film travels, we see the various sequences and elements that slightly set the pair off-track, and allow for their connection to go stronger; although in this case it’s absolutely about Tatum growing to like the dog rather than a true ‘buddy comedy’ sort of nature where there’s plenty of humour to be found within the dog’s antics.
In fact, there’s little humour in this regard throughout the film’s relatively well-paced 101 minute run-time. Yes, there are a couple of opportunities for chuckles here and there and the film itself is relatively light, however it doesn’t set itself out as a full-on, out-and-out comedy. It simply follows Jackson and Lulu as the former begins to somehow depend upon the latter to help him get by. It comes as he too experiences anxiety attacks and PTSD in the middle of the night. It’s a point that’s perhaps dealt with in a somewhat heavy-handed way, in the rare glimpses when it does actually make an appearance on screen, but generally feels a staple of this kind of feature, allowing for the convention to come through that bit more.
Over the narrative we see various moments sequences, some fitting in to the piece a bit better than others, as Lulu leads Jackson to meeting various different figures to help him along the way, for better or worse – or sometimes one into the other. The feeling of a set of sequences is felt and the blocks of the film do begin to clearly show, however the sequences themselves aren’t of a low quality and pass by well enough with little fuss to still create and engaging piece of work for the time that each one lasts, while not being too ‘obvious’ to create a stop-start feel to the film from setting to setting. Yet, the run-time is filled rather well and passes by fairly quickly with some nice beats and elements dotted here and there throughout.
Dog certainly has its moments where its conventions show within its generally direct nature. You kind of know what you’re getting from the opening 20 minutes or so. But, what you get is a rather engaging not-quite-buddy-flick that while a bit heavy-handed with its more dramatic elements produces enough enjoyable content and moments to pass the rest of the run-time well enough. It’s a simple tale of the growing bond between man and dog, and it’s a well-executed telling of it that doesn’t go for big laughs when it so easily could, twisting its tone to lean away from them and make a more dramatic point. It adds to the general nature and viewer involvement of the piece and, much like Lulu to Tatum’s Jackson, helps it through that little bit more.
While the conventions may show within Dog’s direct and occasionally sequential nature there’s still an enjoyable time to be had in the generally quick 101 minute run-time when it leans away from its rare, more forceful dramas.