By Mr. Will Wong
Megastar Channing Tatum gives directing a go in DOG, a Buddy Dramedy of the human-canine kind. While the genre certainly has been visited before, the Film has new things to say about PTSD with a bond than transcends species.
We meet U.S. Army Ranger Briggs (Tatum) who is tasked with bringing Lulu, a working military dog, to the funeral of her handler, who is one of his fellow soldiers. While their arrangement is temporary, he finds it a struggle to connect with her and she is actually quite aggressive towards him. On their travels, they encounter a few close calls. The more he learns about Lulu though in how she interacts with others along the way, he finds himself realizing more about himself. The road must come to an end as she must continue her life without her previous caretaker, and he must move on with his life again.
While DOG deals with some emotional topics like the aftermath of being in the military and coping with loss, it is easy to dismiss this as a tear-jerker. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We love films like Marley & Me and The Art of Racing in the Rain and may have near-choked in our inconsolable sobbing in our enjoyment of these. This Film however, makes the conscious choice to tug a bit on the heartstrings just enough, without being too deliberate in its aim for waterworks. What culminates is a sweet journey between man and dog though a bit understated, still is effective.
Co-Writers Reid Carolin (who also directs this alongside Tatum) and Brett Rodriguez help us see the world of Briggs and Lulu through a fresh lens, and approach the subject matter with sensitivity. A lot of back story is told about Lulu and Briggs without telling us a lot. One scene where Lulu almost attacks a Muslim man is very telling, and how Briggs is apologetic almost for being in the military, is a truthful glimpse of what life can be for a white man raised on the traditional ideal of masculinity post-Cancel era. We appreciate that it asks questions like what happens to these dogs should they lose their human companions.
Tatum takes his character through a journey that sees his heart open-up and though the Film doesn’t swing big in its ambitions, this love letter to Tatum‘s real life dog (also named Lulu) and how much she meant to him, is palpable. The true star here however, doesn’t even deliver one line. Lulu (played by three dogs: Lana 5, Britta and Zuza) is perfect and so remarkably expressive, conveying so adeptly what it feels to lose a sense if self in grief. It is impossible not to fall in love with her.
Elevation Pictures release DOG February 18, 2022.
*Please exercise caution observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre*