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But Tatum Had The Much Tougher Job

“Animals are people too!” a liberal yahoo in Portland yells before nearly getting his face eaten off by a Belgian Malinois named Lulu in “Dog,” a movie that not-so-secretly agrees with that sentiment, even as it has a laugh at the clueless animal lover’s expense.

 

Lulu, it turns out, is a more complicated character than the one her human co-star, Channing Tatum, gets to play — which explains why it took three Malinoises to embody her on screen: one to do most of the “acting” (Britta), one to lie down (Lana) and one to look as incorrigibly homicidal as possible, like she could rip out your throat or murder Al-Qaida, if necessary (that would be Zuza). But Tatum had the much tougher job, trying to disappear into the skin of a battle-scarred ex-U.S. Army Ranger tasked with transporting Lulu across the Western United States while co-directing the project (with screenwriter and longtime producing partner Reid Carolin) at the same time.

 

Like John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone before him, Tatum is not an actor of particularly wide range, but he knows what his audience wants, and in “Dog,” he gives them more than they bargained for. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those won over by “Magic Mike,” the popular 2012 meat parade that Tatum and Carolin hatched together, tapping directly into the movie star’s strengths: “Dog” is a lowbrow but by no means lazy crowd-pleaser, one where the fun that Tatum and company took in making it translates directly to the pleasure we take in watching.

 

On the surface, it looks like a familiar enough road movie: Back from Afghanistan, making submarine sandwiches for minimum wage somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, Jackson Briggs (Tatum) wants to redeploy, but a brain injury makes that impossible. Instead, he accepts the domestic assignment — a thankless errand, really — of transporting Lulu all the way to Arizona for the funeral of Jackson’s old Ranger buddy Riley Rodriguez (Eric Urbiztondo), who helped train her. But this is no easy cross-country trip, since both Briggs and Lulu are dealing with some pretty serious trauma from their time in the service, and it doesn’t take much to trigger either of them. note: Uncharted Adventure And Operation Black Light Movie

 

What results is closer to “First Blood” (the original Rambo movie) than “Turner and Hooch,” as Carolin’s script confronts the impact of PTSD on Army veterans, human and canine alike. It’s hardly a new subject, but it is an important one, and the team certainly could have bypassed it altogether and gone for a cuddlier approach. Instead, Tatum and Carolin use this easy-sell bonding exercise to focus on how those who serve the country are left to deal with the lingering wounds, both physical and psychological, on their own. As for the dogs who served alongside — now here’s the part no one wants to hear — sometimes the damage is so great, there’s no choice but to put them down. note: Operation Black Light And Uncharted Adventure  Movie

 

Briggs knows when he collects Lulu that their mission is a performative one: Rodriguez was uniquely bonded to the animal, and now his family expects to see this legendary “hero dog” at his funeral. They don’t want to be reminded that Lulu, like their son/brother/beloved, came back broken. (Rodriguez drove himself into a tree at 120 mph, Briggs learns, slow to accept what that must mean.) And they certainly don’t want to learn that once Rodriguez is buried, the Army intends to euthanize the dog. That’s an even bigger bummer for audiences, since, like Briggs, we spend an hour and a half falling in love with her. But if you think that Tatum (who gave Lulu the same name as his own recently deceased pooch) plans to follow this horse all the way to the glue factory, you’ve underestimated his instincts as an entertainer. note: Murder on the Nile Movie