'Dog' review: Channing Tatum takes a road trip with man's best friend

An Army Ranger hits the road to deliver a dog to the funeral of its trainer in this story about man, dogs and the bond between them.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Channing Tatum plays an Army Ranger tasked with transporting a military dog to the funeral of its handler in "Dog," a warm but not too cuddly buddy comedy about the bond between man and man's best friend. 

Tatum, who also co-directed the film with "Magic Mike" and "Magic Mike XXL" screenwriter Reid Carolin, stars as Jackson Briggs, who's been rendered inactive due to a history of brain injuries. He's hoping to get back into action, and his commanding officer cuts him a deal: drive Lulu, the Belgian Malinois that was a part of his unit from Washington to Arizona (Lulu doesn't fly) and then hand her over to military personnel, and he'll think about it.  

Channing Tatum in "Dog."

So Jackson and Lulu hit the road. Lulu is a tough cookie: she's aggressive, is trained to attack and requires a muzzle. Jackson is something of a fish out of water himself, as he learns while traveling through Portland, when a trip to the bar results in a lesson in modern wokeness. And just as things finally start going his way, wouldn't you know it, Lulu spoils the night. That darn dog!

But Jackson needs Lulu and Lulu needs Jackson, and it doesn't take a dog lover to see that they will eventually bond. The Road Trip formula requires they get into some adventures along the way, and "Dog's" side trips test the limits of plausibility: Jackson ends up captured by a hulking woodsman (played by Trenton native and former professional wrestler Kevin Nash) and later winds up behind bars, before car troubles threaten to derail the trip altogether. 

They're ultimately distractions from the story at the heart of "Dog." Tatum is a skilled performer and gives his character appropriately rough edges; in an early scene, you can feel his inner rage seething as he's making a sandwich for a condescending customer while working at a sub shop. He's been haunted by the trauma of war but is also pulled toward the sense of purpose it gives him. Is Lulu the piece of the puzzle that he's missing? Perhaps, and "Dog" makes a solid argument for the roles dogs play in our lives, even if it takes a roundabout way of getting there.    

Give "Dog" credit for not going the full weepie route, or cheapening itself by shamelessly tugging at heartstrings. In Tatum's hands, it's not any more sentimental than it needs to be. It's a dog movie for tough guys, the ones who prefer to dab their eyes when no one is looking. They're not crying, you are. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Dog'

GRADE: B-

Rated PG-13: for language, thematic elements, drug content and some suggestive material

Running time: 90 minutes

In theaters