Dog (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): His journey with a military dog

“Dog” is a simple road movie which handles its story and characters with enough care and sensitivity. Right from when its two main characters begin their journey, you can instantly discern how much they will be changed via their rather bumpy journey, but this little modest movie still engages us mainly thanks to not only its solid storytelling but also its believable depiction of the dynamic relationship development between its two main characters along the story.

At the beginning of its story, the movie succinctly establishes the troubling status of Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum), a US Army Ranger who has apparently been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to his recent combat experience. Despite his problematic mental condition, Briggs applies for a rotation position in Pakistan, but he is not accepted due to some serious brain injury, and then he becomes more depressed when he is notified that a close comrade of his died due to a car accident.

Not long after that, Briggs’ commanding officer gives him an offer he cannot refuse. He is instructed to take over a military dog working along with that dead comrade of his, and all he will have to do is taking this military dog, named Lulu, to the funeral of that dead comrade in Arizona before eventually having it euthanized at a nearby military base. Because it is apparent that Lulu has serious behavioral problems due its combat experience, Briggs is initially reluctant, but he comes to accept this little mission because his commanding officer promises that he will help Briggs getting that rotation position in Pakistan if Briggs accomplishes the mission.

Of course, once he hits the road along with Lulu, Briggs soon discovers that Lulu is quite a problematic dog in many aspects. Besides frequently barking a lot, it ruins the interior of his vehicle without hesitation, and that certainly annoys and frustrates Briggs, who has no choice but to handle its problematic behaviors as much as he can.

Anyway, he and Lulu continue their journey as going through one spot after another, and the movie accordingly gives us a series of episodic moments to amuse us. At one point, Briggs drops by a bar during one evening, and, after several failed attempts to seduce young women, he finds himself getting associated with a couple of ladies who are somehow charmed by Lulu as dog owners. When they later take Briggs to their cozy residence, they turn out to be quite willing to do a little sexual experience along with him, but, not so surprisingly, things do not go that well thanks to an unexpected happening involved with Lulu.

The most amusing part in the film comes from when Briggs and Lulu happen to run into a little farm located in the middle of a remote forest. Although his subsequent encounter with an eccentric couple living there is not exactly cordial at first, it does not take much time for both Briggs and this couple to bury the hatchet thanks to Lulu, and Briggs and Lulu find themselves a bit more relaxed than before.

While they spend more time together, Briggs comes to care about Lulu more than he expected. As looking into a scrapbook dedicated to Lulu’s battlefield activities, he becomes more connected with Lulu, and Lulu seems to appreciate Briggs’ sincere companionship – especially when they attempt a little naughty thing together at a posh hotel in San Francisco.

Around the point where these two main characters are approaching to the end of their journey, the screenplay by co-director Reid Carolin, who wrote the story with co-producer Brett Rodriguez, becomes more sentimental as expected, but it still makes us care about how its two main characters will arrive at the end of the journey. Yes, there eventually comes a dramatic moment when Briggs must decide on what he should do for Lulu as well as himself, but this moment is presented with tactful restraint at least, and we become more aware of the growing sense of healing between Briggs and Lulu.

While serving as the co-director of the film along with Carolin, Channing Tatum diligently holds the ground with his earnest acting, and his performance here in the film reminds me again of how he has matured as a good actor during last several years. On the opposite, three different dogs who play Lulu in the film are convincing as one character, and their effortless interactions with Tatum on the screen is one of the main reasons why the movie works. In case of several notable performers in the film including Jane Adams, Kevin Nash, Q’orianka Kilcher, and Ethan Suplee, they dutifully provide extra personality to their respective scenes, and Suplee, who has recently looked quite thinner compared to his goofy supporting turn in TV sitcom series “My Name Is Earl”, demonstrates a more serious side of his talent as a comrade who manages to become more well-adjusted to normal life than Briggs.

In conclusion, “Dog” is pretty familiar to the core in terms of story and characters, but it has some sincerity and personality to distinguish itself a bit from many other similar films out there. I exactly knew what I would get, and the movie does not exceed my expectation much, but it did its job as well as intended at least, so I will not grumble for now.

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