REVIEW: Road movie ‘Dog’ succeeds with emotion and humor

Channing Tatum plays Jackson Briggs in this new dramatic comedy. Not to be confused with the Jackson “Jax” Briggs from the “Mortal Kombat” series.

Briggs is an Army Ranger who, since being discharged, has found it difficult to adapt to life back home. He’s tried to get work in military-related roles, but is often denied because of his post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis and other injuries.

At a memorial gathering for one of his friends and fellow soldiers, though, Briggs is able to ask his commanding officer to put in a recommendation for him to help get a job. The officer agrees, but in return, asks Briggs to take the late soldier’s military service dog to the funeral, being held in Arizona. Knowing it’s a long drive from the Washington state to Arizona, but wanting the work, Briggs reluctantly agrees.

The serene beauty of the western United States, the sweetness of a dog companion and the complexities of soldiers returning from war with mental health needs are all mixed into this film. So, while “Dog” is structured as a  stereotypical road comedy, these aspects help make it a more compelling, engaging experience.

Watching Briggs try to reign in the dog, which has become aggressive and difficult to handle after being in military service for years, is endearing. As is seeing him trying to overcome his own PTSD struggles.

The movie can be a reminder at times of how big of an adjustment these men and women have to go through and one can’t help but feel for both Briggs and the canine. The film mixes its heavy subject matter with a good deal of humor, though, which has its highs and lows.

There are some legitimate funny moments in “Dog” that can produce laughs. But at the same time, there are some lesser comedic moments that feel a bit below this film. One example is a set of scenes taking place at a hotel.

Courtesy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The script is fairly pedestrian, too. The film scratches rather lightly on Briggs’ trauma, some of the dialogue can feel generic and the film largely avoids any exploration of America’s involvement in war, as well as its impact on the population.

As a result, “Dog” isn’t a exactly a top tier, award caliber drama, but that’s OK. The film is perfectly serviceable for an afternoon, feel-good matinee watch.

“Dog” succeeds as a solid, above average crowdpleaser. Even as it goes into predictable territory, the film is consistently winning a viewer over with charm.

Tatum’s performance certainly helps the film become a captivating watch. After a bit of a hiatus, having not been in a major role since 2017, Tatum returns with a heartfelt, honest and emotional performance.

“Dog,” overall, is a good effort. It’s a simple but satisfying piece of cinema that can move people and make them laugh. 3.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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