Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin’s “Dog,” as a movie, has the potential to save America. While that statement is purely hyperbolic, the very fact that “Dog” is as good a movie as it is, is not.
The premise is simple: Lulu (the titular dog) is going to be put to sleep — as all military dogs are. But the family of her owner, a serviceman who committed suicide due to PTSD, wants Lulu at the funeral and Briggs (Tatum) is tasked with getting her to Arizona. Briggs is not doing this out of the goodness of his heart, but to get put back on duty in some capacity.
The premise is simple, but the underlying themes of “Dog” are powerful, and Carolin and Tatum helm the movie ably, infusing it with humor, heart and a strong message. Some of these themes are gleaned merely on a surface level, but “Dog” does not need to be a movie that digs deep and makes some grandiose statement about foreign relations, war, PTSD, suicide, etc. Sure, it contains moments that reflect on these, but it showcases the conceptual beauty of the U.S. very well.
One instance, played for laughs because of the scene’s set-up, involves Lulu chasing a practicing Muslim throughout a hotel. Tatum’s character and the dog are punished for this “hate crime.” But when Briggs gets to explain the situation, the doctor, a practicing Muslim, forgives Briggs but tells him to seek psychiatric help.
This is where the movie begins its somewhat subtle pivot into having a deeper meaning than the “good girl and beautiful Channing Tatum road trip, make funny jokes” sheen the movie appears to have based on the trailers and poster.
This scene is the most provocative because, in one of the most divisive eras in American history, it takes these two very different people and shows that there is more than just what they think or what we are taught to think of one another.
From here on out, the movie explores Tatum’s character’s eagerness to abandon his fractured family, which ties into his declining physical and mental health because of his urgency to head back into the service where he can do what he is best at: killing.
Briggs is good at it, and it is all he has known. But discovering Lulu and their adventure together shows him that there is more to life than action and being the big burly guy that kills and gets awards for it. There is a time and a place, but when Briggs hears and sees what happened to Lulu’s owner — suicide caused by his PTSD, which had been worsening — it changes him.
No spoilers here, but the movie culminates in a quick yet very uplifting, simplistic way. It wraps it all up, maybe not in a bow, but enough to make the themes have weight. There is no big Hollywood escape moment or significant high-stakes event like so many movies feel the need to have these days. It is big, bold, weird, funny and endearing — and it stays in this lane for the entirety of the runtime. It is not going to change the world, but it may uplift spirits and make your heart soar for 101-minutes.
4 out of 5 stars.