In a list of current actors that could become directors, I’d bet Channing Tatum was not on that list. Working alongside his long-time collaborator Reid Carolin, they both make their directorial debuts with the no so imaginative titled Dog. Not a film that was on my 2022 radar to look out for, but as soon as I discovered the people behind it, curiosity skyrocketed and I just had to experience it for myself, also who doesn’t like dogs? There weren’t exactly high hopes for Dog but in terms of directorial debuts, Dog has a couple of surprises up its sleeves, but also a couple of knockbacks.
First and foremost, for any film that has an animal for the main character, the biggest tick to check off is making the animal character just as complex and elaborate as the human character. Many fail, Dog on the other hand succeeds with flying colours. The Belgian Malinois in question, Lulu shares command of the screen with Channing Tatum’s character Briggs. Both have been through a lot as former Army Rangers and have the emotional scarring for there to be a connection. Most dogs in films you just see as a dog, but with Lulu, there’s something more. She has a personality, she has interests and dislikes, she has a history. This dog, who calms down by watching her own bodycam footage and episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, who doesn’t like having her ear touched, has more character than some human characters I’ve seen in past films. I really have to commend Reid Carolin for writing such a deep character.
Surprisingly, Dog has a lot of humour that actually sticks the landing. We know Channing Tatum has great comedic timing from the Jump Street films, but here he interweaves it into a more serious narrative, but it still has a scent of goofiness about it. It is pretty funny to watch him pretend to be blind to get him and Lulu a free luxury room and the consequences that come afterwards pay off with a big audience reaction. It’s not the funniest we’ve seen Channing Tatum but his experience in comedic films has helped him in giving a likeable performance, which is a pretty easy achievement given his natural charm. You do get a sense of full commitment to telling this story.
With some first time directors, you have to give the benefit of the doubt because of their inexperience, however, I do believe that there are several moments in Dog where, even as a writer or actor, should have been spotted. The most glaring of these moments is Briggs’ relationship with his former wife and daughter, which the film only mentions in passing. There is a scene in which Briggs pays them a visit, but we don’ even get a scene with them, it is just Briggs going into the house and walking out. By the end of the film, they’ve rekindled without context. It’s a part of Briggs as a character that feels too essential to simply touch upon.
The journey that Briggs and Lulu take can feel like it has a repetitive beat to it. Essentially, the journey has them on the road and meeting crazy characters who all have an unusual quirk. The oddest are two young women who Briggs attempts to pick up, but instead, the two girls derive pleasure through connecting spiritually. You also have a farmer who knocks out Briggs when Lulu trespasses on his weed farm, only for it to be some big misunderstanding and his wife turning out to be a psychic. These one-off characters are a pretty big diversion from what the audience should be invested in. The film has already been able to be unexpectedly funny, but characters like this show what happens when it tries too hard, almost like Channing Tatum believed his charm wasn’t enough when it clearly is.
It may also be confusing to establish what type of film Dog is exactly. In my screening, I saw plenty of families with me, but I think this is pretty far from a family film. Looking back, it reminded me of a romantic comedy, when you stop to think it does make some sense to arrive at that conclusion. Two broken people who overtime heal each other and learn lessons from characters along the way, with a road trip to serve as a device for conversation. I’m not quite certain what crowd Dog is intended for because just when you think you’ve figured it out, there will be a scene that questions it.
Still, Dog is a surprising film. I believe many audiences will think that Dog was a much better film than they thought it would be. Even someone who’s not usually a fan of dogs wouldn’t be able to stop warming up to Lulu because of how well she is written and to create a character with this much depth is already a testament to a respectable first attempt directing from Tatum and Carolin. By no means is the film a great film, but you can’t necessarily say that it’s a bad film either. Sure there is a lot to brush up on if these two men want another crack at directing, the film doesn’t exactly excel with human characters as much as it does with animal ones, but as someone who never thought Channing Tatum had a future in directing, I’m now more open to the idea.
Final Result: 5/10 – Average
Have you seen Dog? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Cyrano
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