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Film Review: “Dog”

FILM REVIEW: DOG
Rated PG-13
101 Minutes
Released February 18th

Congratulations for a job well done to Channing Tatum and longtime collaborator Reid Carolin, each on their first outing as director on the film Dog. Tatum’s career began in 2000 when he was chosen for the role of a dancer in a Ricky Martin video. He worked as a model, dancer and stripper before booking the film that made him famous, Magic Mike (2012). Carolin was one of the producers and writers on Magic Mike and has worked often with Tatum since then including on White House Down, 22 Jump Street, Magic Mike XXL and Logan Lucky. In 2017, they were both producers on a documentary called War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend, an in depth study of the bonds formed between veterans and their canine companions during combat and the return to home life. No doubt that documentary laid the groundwork and inspiration for Dog.

Tatum, an instinctive comedian, here proves himself to be an extraordinary dramatic actor, once again illustrating my theory that comedy and tragedy are the same instinct. Tatum reaches to the depths for this role of “Briggs.” It’s at times comedic, then tragic, and often scary. He does a phenomenal job creating the character of a soldier who has literally been to hell and back for so long that trauma is normal for him.

Lulu or “Dog” as Briggs calls her, has endured rigorous training to become a war dog, and has been immersed in the terrors of war. For both man and dog, war had become their life style. Briggs and Dog are thrown together on a 1500-mile road trip from Oregon to the funeral of her handler in Nogales, a desert town on the Arizona/Mexico border.

The unsung stars of the movie are Belgian Malinois dogs Britta, Lana 5 and Zuza. This breed is often seen as war dogs because they are highly trainable, which also makes them good actors. Their energy level is so high that they need to work to be happy. They are loving and loyal – also extremely high maintenance, intense and emotional. So don’t leave the theatre and go out and adopt a Belgian Malinois unless you are a personal trainer, long-distance runner or love to walk 5-10 miles a day – with your dog. I’m happy to report that all three canine performers were officially adopted by their trainers at the end of the shoot!

Dog is so much more than a rom-com road trip about a guy and his dog. This deeply emotional film explores the increasingly common predicament of soldiers forced to bridge from the environment of the battlefield to civilian existence without extensive rehab assistance. It’s a deep study of the emotional and physical effects of war, on both the soldiers and their war dogs. For those of us who have never experienced a live battlefield, it’s hard to comprehend. This story allows us some perception. If you have never had PTSD, you will get a glimpse of the pain. It’s not something you can just take off like a sweater once you re-enter a peacetime environment. This movie skillfully portrays the struggle of the “lucky” ones who are able to come home, yet can never really return to the life they left behind. 

This movie highlights the value of the highly developed instincts of dogs as healers of troubled humans. Often we don’t realize how much we can learn from dogs and other animals, who are more in touch with their feelings than we humans with our cluttered brains. This movie will remind you who really has the upper hand emotionally and the importance of our relationship with animals. P.S. Note that Tatum had a much-loved pit-bull/Catahoula mix whose name was Lulu.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which has been the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people.  She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com

in Film
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