Channing Tatum in ‘Dog’: Film Review

In his first starring role in five years, the actor plays an Army Ranger tasked with transporting a PTSD-scarred canine to her former handler’s funeral.

Despite his status as one of Hollywood’s reigning hunks and such popular flicks as The Vow and Dear John, Channing Tatum actually hasn’t done all that many romantic movies in his career. His latest effort doesn’t technically alter that fact, though the actor lovingly caresses, speaks adoringly to and shares a bathtub with an equally gorgeous female co-star. That said co-star is a Belgian Malinois should in no way deter Tatum’s many fans from checking him out in his first starring role in five years.

Tatum also co-directed (with his Magic Mike collaborator Reid Carolin) this obvious passion project, inspired by a 2017 HBO documentary, War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend, that they executive produced. In this fictional version, the actor plays Jackson Briggs, an Army Ranger desperate to see action again after getting sidelined by a brain injury that induces seizures. To get back into his commanding officer’s good graces, he accepts an assignment to drive Lulu, an Army dog who served in Afghanistan, some 1,500 miles in his lovingly restored ’84 Bronco so the canine, herself traumatized by her wartime experiences, can attend the funeral of her late handler.


The Bottom Line

An entertaining canine spin on ‘The Last Detail.’

Release date: Friday, February 18

Cast: Channing Tatum, Jane Adams, Kevin Nash, Q’orianka Kilcher, Ethan Suplee, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Nicole LaLiberte, Luke Forbes, Ronnie Gene Blevins

Directors: Reid Carolin, Channing Tatum

Screenwriter: Reid Carolin

Rated PG-13,
1 hour 41 minutes

Cue the expected bumps in the road, as this combination buddy/road trip movie chronicles the duo’s series of misadventures while they slowly warm up to each other. Carolin’s episodic script veers uneasily between social drama and broad comedy as Briggs and Lulu encounter numerous obstacles and a variety of eccentric characters, stretching credibility along the way. They include Briggs’ ill-fated romantic encounter with a pair of new age-y Portland women; briefly becoming the captive of an overly suspicious pot grower (Kevin Nash) and his psychic wife (Jane Adams); getting arrested after pretending to be blind to score a free room in a fancy hotel; and using Lulu’s Army skills to track down the criminal who broke into his car and stole its contents.

That’s an awful lot to go wrong on one road trip, even if Briggs is a bit of a bumbler and Lulu has post-traumatic stress and anger issues that result in such behavior as her tearing the car’s seats to shreds. But audiences are likely to go along for the ride anyway, so to speak, thanks to the abundant charms of the two stars (well, actually four, since three canines play Lulu, named for Tatum’s own late, beloved dog). Five years away from leading roles have done nothing to lessen the actor’s low-key charisma and comedic skills (nor, judging by his numerous shirtless scenes, has the time off eroded his fitness level). As for the trio of animals who play Lulu, suffice it to say that if the film is a hit, kennels won’t be able to breed Belgian Malinoises fast enough. Forget the near-naked stripper gyrations in Magic Mike; when Tatum wraps his arm around Lulu as they sit and watch the sunset together, it’s the sexiest he’s ever been onscreen.

The film, resembling a sort of canine variation of Hal Ashby’s 1973 classic The Last Detail, skillfully walks a fine line by adopting a highly respectful view of the military while managing to be irreverent at the same time. It ultimately delivers a moving perspective on the physical and emotional toll suffered by those who fight our wars, with Briggs, who’s definitely not a dog lover, ultimately bonding with his canine charge when he realizes that they share a common psychic burden.

At the same time, after watching Dog, you may never be able utter the phrase, “Thank you for your service,” with a straight face ever again.

Full credits

Production companies: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment, Free Association
Distributor: United Artists Releasing
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jane Adams, Kevin Nash, Q'orianka Kilcher, Ethan Suplee, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Nicole LaLiberte, Luke Forbes, Ronnie Gene Blevins
Directors: Reid Carolin, Channing Tatum
Screenwriter: Reid Carolin
Producers: Gregory Jacobs, Peter Kiernan, Brett Rodriguez
Executive producers: Betsy Danbury, Ken Meyer
Director of photography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Production designer: Laurence Bennett
Editor: Leslie Jones
Composer: Thomas Newman
Costume designer: Dayna Pink
Casting: Avy Kaufman

Rated PG-13, 1 hour 41 minutes