DOG is directed by Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin; it’s the directorial debut for both. The movie stars Tatum, Jane Adams, Kevin Nash, Q'orianka Kilcher, Ethan Suplee, Emmy Raver-Lampman, and Bill Burr.
Briggs, a US Army Ranger, is no longer on active duty following brain injuries received in combat during his military service. He wants nothing more than a clean bill of health so he can get back in the fight, but nothing can be approved without a call of recommendation from a superior officer. He’s given a deal to get back in the fight – transport a recently-deceased officer’s adopted service dog home for his funeral, and he’ll get the recommendation he needs. But he quickly finds out the hard way that the dog in question is a nightmare to work with, having been traumatized and forever changed by the horrors of war in the Middle East. Will Briggs get the dog to the funeral in time, or will he lose his one chance at getting back to active military duty?
DOG has a lot of interesting ideas, but it’s a mixed bag that can’t quite decide if it wants to be a comedy or a drama. One second, it deals with the horrors of war and the effects they can have on everyday people. The next, it’s a laugh-out-loud comedy with no semblance of reality whatsoever. Channing Tatum (who also co-directs) turns in the movie’s only convincing performance, doing a solid job with what he’s given here. It’s just a shame other aspects of the movie are half finished and fall victim to lazy, episodic storytelling.
Where DOG best succeeds is Channing Tatum’s character of Briggs. We truly believe this is a man who wants nothing more than to get back in the fight and to serve his country, getting his life back on track. The movie gives him what seems like a simplistic job at first, but he quickly realizes he’s in over his head, and some of the moments that he and the titular dog share are quite interesting. His performance is the best part of the film by a considerable margin.
Other aspects of the movie don’t fare as well. What had potential to be a fun comedic “road movie” instead devolves into a series of episodic vignettes packed with characters who have no connection to reality. The screenplay essentially just serves as a vehicle to put Tatum in the most ridiculous situations possible with over-the-top characters who feel more like caricatures than authentic and believable persons. It’s hard to get into details without veering into spoiler territory, but these feel more like the kinds of people Pee-Wee Herman would meet on one of his road trips than a true-to-life US Army Ranger. I won’t deny that some of these scenes got a few laughs out of me, but I did question whether they belonged in this film.
The writing, unfortunately, takes the laziest and easiest ways out of any potential complications or plot holes. There’s a miraculous convenience every time the plot requires it, and you can pretty much see the film’s final moments coming a mile away. Again, revealing too much of this would head into spoiler territory, but it's lazy writing that doesn’t do justice to what this material could’ve been.
The biggest weakness of DOG is that the movie struggles to find its balance between drama and comedy. The funny parts are laugh-out-loud funny and quite hilarious, but they don’t mesh with the more heartfelt material dealing with the struggles of military life and its impact on friends and family of soldiers. Movies like LAST FLAG FLYING prove that it’s possible to balance these aspects well, but DOG falls short. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the funniest scenes the movie has to offer already.
DOG is a decently-made film that has some laughs and decent heartfelt moments, but it can’t rise above lazy writing, an imbalance between the comedy and drama, and over-the-top characters that aren’t in touch with the real world or anything resembling it. Rent it or stream it after its theatrical run ends, but don’t rush to the theater.