Dog proves a moving, engaging surprise
Dog (M, 101min) Directed by Reid Carolin ★★★1⁄2
Reviewed by Graeme Tuckett
I’ll always love that moment, when I realise that the film I am watching is doing just a little more, a little better, than the poster and the trailer had led me to expect it would.
For the last month now, I’ve been watching the short for Dog – and it has never promised anything more than to be a roadtrip comedy played out between Channing Tatum’s ex-Army Ranger and a recalcitrant hound Tatum has been ordered to drive from Washington State to Arizona, in time for the dog to be seen at the funeral of its onceowner.
The dog’s owner was also a Ranger, but he has been killed stateside in a car accident – and the family are keen for his ‘‘best friend’’ to be at the graveside.
The only trouble is, the dog – Lulu – is a traumatised veteran herself, who refuses to let anyone come near her. Not even a once-trusted friend like Tatum’s Jackson Briggs.
So, Dog is going to unfold – we are assured – as a comedy about two outsiders – one man, one dog – helping to heal each other and to learn how to trust in humanity again. And, yes, Dog does achieve all of that.
But what surprised me about
Dog is just how intelligently and insightfully it walks its welltrodden path. And how moving and engaging the movie occasionally allows itself to become.
And with Dog, that ‘‘relax, this is going to be an OK film’’ moment arrived very early. As soon as John Prine and Kurt Vile’s rendition of Prine’s How Lucky Can One Man Get started over the opening credits, I figured Dog was in safe hands. You simply don’t choose a song that honest, witty and heartfelt to introduce your film, unless you have the ears to hear it and the heart to appreciate it.
Director Reid Carolin is better known as a writer and producer. He is credited on both of Tatum’s Magic Mike films, which, like Dog, turned out to be just a little more than what the poster was promising.
Dog, while it never threatens to become any sort of gritty drama, does have some things to say about the ongoing trauma of PTSD and head-injuries in the military. As well as America’s shabby treatment of the impoverished young women and men who volunteered – often out of financial need – to be sent into harm’s way and then found themselves discarded and ignored on their return, as unwelcome reminders of failed policies and ideologies.
Tatum is reliably excellent here. As with many actors who got their early breaks being not much more than somewhere to temporarily hang a shirt, it is too easy to underestimate Tatum’s actual range and the quiet authority he can bring to a wellwritten scene. While the other undisputed star of Dog will be the three Belgian Malinois who collectively play Lulu, the troubled beast of the title.
Dog is a pleasant surprise. It will succeed just fine as an undemanding Friday night out, for anyone who just wants a few laughs and a decent yarn populated by likeable and relatable characters. But it is also a pretty well-done example of a film that strives to be and to do more than it really had to. There is some heart here – and a few bones to chew on. Recommended.
is now screening in cinemas nationwide.