Channing Tatum Will Make You Believe in Dog

If the devil were to arrive on Earth in human form, he wouldn’t appear as an infant born to an Upper West Side mom with a pixie cut, or even as a scheming, greedy, amoral presidential candidate. It’s too obvious. He would show up as someone like Channing Tatum, an actor loved by almost everyone who has a brain and a heart, a performer who can make us believe in any script, whether it’s far-fetched, corny, or just plain dumb. Luckily, there’s no way Tatum is working for the dark side—he’s too radiant and generous a spirit for that—but his persuasiveness is devilishly effective even in movies whose charms you may try valiantly to resist. He will get you to believe in him Dog.
[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]

Dog,Tatum was also co-directed the film with Reid Carolin, (writer of The Amazing Spider-Man). Magic Mike movies), is one of those pictures that you think you have pinned down even before you see it—and in some ways, you probably do. Tatum portrays Briggs, an Army Ranger feeling completely lost while not on duty. He’s stuck making sandwiches somewhere in Montana and he’s dead broke, desperate to be redeployed. He has suffered serious brain injuries and the Army won’t allow him to return. He begs for his next assignment, but they refuse to give it. They finally give him an assignment to put him down. One of his old Ranger buddies, formerly the handler of a K9 soldier—a Belgian malinois named Lulu—has died, a suicide. The soldier’s distraught parents want Lulu at his funeral in Arizona. Briggs can Briggs take her there.

Lulu has PTSD and her aggression manifests as aggression. She is therefore unadoptable, unlovable, and, presumably. She’s one of the Army’s lost causes, a casualty who has become a burden to them. Briggs accepts the mission, partly because he needs something to do, but mostly to get back in the Amy’s good graces.

Man rescues dog as dog rescues man. This story has been told many times. But we’ve never seen Tatum play it. Dog—which was written by Carolin and Brett Rodriguez—is largely a comedy, and only partly a tearjerker. It is a great movie that makes you cry. Lulu isn’t an easy dog to like, especially at first. She’s so unpredictable that she’s doomed to wear a Bane-style leather muzzle most of the time. If her ears are even slightly touched, she goes crazy. It’s dangerous to take her out in public, and she feels a constant need to run—even though she’s long been off-duty, she’s still susceptible to every combat trigger. And the opening credits, as well as broad hints dropped here and there throughout the film, let us know that she’s been trained to attack and kill. That’s the job humans have given her and groomed her for. In a scene that doesn’t end as badly as you fear, she escapes Briggs’s grip in the lobby of a fancy hotel and attacks a doctor, a Muslim, because he’s wearing a thobe.

Read more reviews by Stephanie Zacharek

That’s a horrible reminder of Lulu’s past life, but a key truth entwined in it is that dogs don’t go to war of their own volition. Dog isn’t openly political, but it’s definitely not overtly liberal. There are many reasons why men and women choose to join the military, not just because they love the idea of war. We don’t know what Briggs’s reasons were, but the point is that he’s lost without the community and sense of purpose he found in the Army. If you want soldiers to be portrayed as people rather than symbols—and we should always want that—Tatum is your guy.

We watch as the inevitable happens: Briggs and Lulu learn to trust each other—it’s the thing both of them need. But Lulu doesn’t make it easy. Early on in the duo’s road trip, she busts out of her crate, destroying the interior of Briggs’s truck. When he meets two tantric-sex specialists eager to get it on with him, Lulu’s loud barking—she’s locked in the truck outside—becomes the interruptus of any potential coitus. In one of the movie’s most outlandish detours, Briggs is taken hostage by a paranoid farmer somewhere in Oregon—but that’s also how he discovers that Lulu, when treated with kindness, has a softer side. (The wonderful actress Jane Adams plays the hippie-dippy, kimono-clad New Ager who brings that out in this troubled dog, channeling her thoughts and informing Briggs that what Lulu really wants, and has never had, is to “sleep on a really nice bed.”)

Lulu—who is played by three dogs, because she’s a girl of many moods—is obviously a metaphor for Briggs’s broken self. Part of his problem is that he needs to stop pitying himself, but the greater world doesn’t make that easy. When he goes to a Portland bar hoping—politely—to get laid, the women he meets condescend to him when they find out he’s a veteran. “At what point did you realize you were just a pawn for big oil?” one asks him. It’s convenient to be anti-war when you’ve never been the person sent to fight one.

You should be aware that many of the tense moments are in movies involving dogs if you’re like me and watch them with your stomach tightened as a rawhide knot. Dog, times when you’re certain something bad is going to happen. True disaster can be avoided, but (spoiler alert!) It’s a happy ending. You can’t have everything. Dog works—you can sometimes see its directors scrambling to find the right tone, and not quite succeeding. The movie has its moments, but it isn’t without hokum. Tatum makes it a pure pleasure to watch. He’s an actor filled with easy, laid-back grace. His comic timing has a boomerang zing—sometimes he looks a little surprised when he lands a punchline, and it’s glorious. (“Oh my God, I can see!” he proclaims, the capper to what some might see as the movie’s most tasteless gag, though Tatum makes it hilarious.) Briggs and Lulu, who are both unruly, find a renewed sense of purpose as they rehabilitate their former roles. This is what you should do. CanYou can teach an old dog new tricks. The same goes for humans.

Subscribe to More Stories, TIME’s weekly entertainment newsletter, to get the context you need for the pop culture you love.


Related Articles

Back to top button