Going into this movie, I was worried that it would simply retread so much familiar material that often comes with similar movies of this subgenre. If one has already watched K9 or Turner and Hooch, then they know exactly what I mean. A troublesome dog gets mismatched with a human who previously has had no experience with canines and the comedy ensues. Though Dog does tread upon these beats, the film actually has more to offer its audiences in addition to these all-too-familiar tropes. Thankfully, the film has some dimension to it and reflects an experience that has some dramatic heft and gravity to its lead characters.

Belgian Malanois Lulu served the United States Army as a military canine who worked with an Army Ranger unit during a tour of duty in the Middle East. Lulu and her handler Sgt. Riley Rodriguez (Eric Urbiztondo) have seen some serious action in the war and have endured some serious trauma-both psychological and physical. After Sgt. Rodriguez dies as a result of suicide, his surviving family requests that the soon-to-be retired Lulu be present at the funeral.

Meanwhile, former Army Ranger Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum) has been struggling at home, dealing with the aftermath of his own physical and psychological trauma. Unable to handle working in a sandwich shop, and maintain most other forms of gainful employment, Briggs has been pressing his former superiors to give him another chance in the Army. His former superior offer Jones (Luke Forbes) offers Briggs the opportunity to prove himself by tasking him the responsibility of transporting Lulu to Rodriguez’s funeral. Briggs agrees and proceeds with the road trip; however, Lulu’s psychological trauma proves to be a bigger challenge than anticipated.

Written and directed by Reid Carolyn, who co-wrote the story with Brett Rodriguez and co-directed with Channing Tatum, Dog turns out to be a much better movie than I had originally anticipated. Yes, the movie does have the usual comedic beats that other similar movies have, but the way the filmmakers handle the more dramatic moments make the film watchable and more compelling. That is not to say that the comedy never works. In fact, I found myself laughing several times, but it is the drama and the challenges that both Lulu and Briggs face that helps the movie mostly succeed.

Channing Tatum, who both directs and stars here, obviously has much passion and love for the material and the issues it addresses. As a co-director, he shows some proficiency and could conceivably have a solid future helming more features. As an actor, he does well blending the comedy and drama. The film also features fine work by Ethan Suplee, Jane Adams, Kevin Nash, Q’orianka Kilcher, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Bill Burr, and Luke Forbes. The dog portraying Lulu does a fantastic job in both her comedic and dramatic scenes.

Dog is one of those familiar movies that manages to rise above in all of the right moments. Though it is an entertaining and dramatically solid feature, it isn’t a film that demands to be enjoyed on the big screen. Regardless of how one decides to watch it, I moderately recommend Dog as it is quite enjoyable, and ultimately moving.

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