Dog has its cinematic heart in the right place, with an unconscious bias.
This review of the film Dog (2022) does not contain spoilers.
Dog (2022), the directorial debut of actor Channing Tatum, along with Reid Carolin, is based on a true story. Along with Magic Mike franchise scribe Carolin and Brett Rodriguez, Tatum draws from his own experiences with a beloved family pet. We’ve all had them—that one great canine relationship. My yellow Labrador named Duke should have a movie based on him, as he would run down the shores of Port Colborne on Lake Erie where everyone Canadian knew his name. I’m sure you feel the same. Here, Tatum draws up his Pitbull Catahoula mix-breed he adopted from the pound and the road trips they took together. The pooch’s name? Lulu.
The reason I am breaking this down so early in this review is the evident heart Dog has for not only the Belgian Malinois but for armed servicemen and women. They use this love and respect they have for animals themselves. Tatum and Carolin are not using Lulu as a metaphor but reflecting Tatum’s broken soul. They are mirror characters, whereas Lulu is showing behavioral control issues. Something that is going on inside Tatum’s Briggs. When he meets a fellow soldier, played by a new lean and mean Ethan Suplee, he represents the healing from the other side.
The issue I have with Dog is that you do not feel for Brigg’s mental health anguish and it only briefly touches upon his estrangement with his family, including his ex and his young daughter. This is a shame since the woman who plays the mother of his child is The New World’s Q’orianka Kilcher. Be careful, blink, and you will miss her. While Tatum and Carolin touch upon Brigg’s migraines and ailments caused by physical injuries in battle, Dog never touches upon issues common in veterans, such as PTSD, anxiety, and social isolation.
There is another issue that comes with the film. While Briggs is tasking Lulu to his a dead soldier’s funeral (that Army Ranger was Lulu’s handler), they touch upon racism. Not with Tatum’s Briggs, but Lulu is doing what she has been trained for. Briggs pretends to be a blind soldier at a fancy hotel in San Francisco. When in the lobby, the military-trained hound chases a man dressed in an ankle-length white Throbe, worn by Muslim men. Lulu takes off, Briggs gives chase, and tackles the Arab-American physician, assaulting him, but thankfully, Lulu is muzzled. The result is Briggs making a joke about how he now can see. This is a fictionalized scene not based on a valid account. The fact of the matter is, it’s played for laughs.
There was an equal amount of laughter in the packed screening I was in. Imagine a situation with a mix-breed attacking a Muslim man, even more than the soldier pretending he can now see. It is off-putting if it wasn’t bad enough for someone to pretend to be a blind soldier, veteran or not. Are the filmmakers here trying to have an underlying theme of forgiveness for the sins of white oppressors? The canceled? Even if this scene was to communicate Briggs, a mirror character, being the one who was being punished for being trained, it’s a remarkably right-wing/red state scene.
And that is the overall problem with Dog. While the film has some surprisingly beautiful cinematography (though, it goes back to the well a few too many times with Tatum laying on top of the hood of his car), the tone and themes are incongruent with the overall storytelling. Sure, it can be sweet, has some laughs, and has a quiet charm about it. The fact is that Tatum and company try to place a lot of bark in more significant issues without a meaty bite.
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