(directors: Reid Carolin, Channing Tatum; screenwriters: story & screenplay Reid Carolin/Brett Rodriguez; cinematographer: Newton Thomas Sigel; editor: Leslie Jones; music:Thomas Newman; cast: Channing Tatum(Army Ranger Jackson Briggs), Kevin Nash (Gus, former pro wrestler), Jane Adams (Tamara), Q’orianka Kilcher (Niki), Ethan Suplee (vet, who rescues traumatized dogs), Luke Forbes (Jones), Eric Urbiztondo (Sergeant Rodriguez), Emmy Raver-Lampman (Bella), Aqueela Zoll (Callan), Nicole LaLiberte (Zoe), Ronnie Gene Blevins (Keith, homeless vet), Patricia Isaac (Tara); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers; Gregory Jacobs, Peter Kiernan, Brett Rodriguez, Channing Tatum: United Artists Releasing/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures; 2022)
“Dog and man look good together.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Inspired by a 2017 HBO documentary, War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend. Co-directors Reid Carolin, the screenwriter, and Channing Tatum, the star, are in their directing debuts (They had prior collaborations on Magic Mike & Logan Lucky). Brett Rodriguez, a former soldier, also had a hand in writing the screenplay. It’s both a comedy and drama telling how recent vets adjust to life when civilians, and how dogs are also affected by their war experience.
The Purple Heart winning Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum) is a former Army Ranger in Afghanistan who was removed from active duty over a brain injury and now works at a minimum wage job in a submarine shop in Montana. While there his former commanding officer Jones (Luke Forbes) informs him that their comrade, Sergeant Rodriguez (Eric Urbiztondo), has died in a car crash (which might have been a suicide) and he asks Briggs to go to a memorial service for him in a Portland, Oregon bar and as a favor transport the dog he trained, the ferociously trained war dog Lulu, a Belgian Malanois, to the sergeant’s funeral in Arizona, so his family can meet the dog before she’s turned over to the military for reprogramming or in reality to be put down. The commanding officer in turn promises to try and get Briggs back into the war in a combat unit (let the cynical me say it sounds like quite a deal for the young soldier).
Thereby the damaged former Army Ranger and the hurting dog go on a road trip together, in his Ford Bronco, across several western states, and must bond if they are to get along.
The muzzled dog first rides in a crate, until a genuine bonding occurs. The hurting soldier soon find they both need each other, and slowly they get so tight they peacefully bath with each other.
One can look at this pic as a fun low-brow Lassie one, but differs where both dog and owner must deal with the impact of PTSD on both the Army vet and canine alike. How deep it goes in examining the effects of PTSD is questionable, but dog and man look good together. To its credit, it tries dealing with social issues over the unpopular war in a relaxed way that never becomes pressing or didactic (getting in a lot of comical episodes). But it can be questioned how impactful are its findings.
REVIEWED ON 2/18/2022 GRADE: B