Road trip comedy delivers what it promises

The demands audiences make of cute-dog films are fairly basic. Is there a dog? And is she cute?

“Dog” — can’t beat that title! — delivers on those two essential pillars. Lulu, a Belgian Malinois who’s been left traumatized by her experience overseas as an Army dog, is adorable. And she forms a moving bond with a veteran with PTSD, Briggs, played by Channing Tatum.

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Running time: 101 minutes. Rated PG-13 (language, thematic elements, drug content and some suggestive material).

Otherwise, we’re handed a serviceable movie about servicemen. Briggs — desperate to go back to being an Army ranger, but no longer mentally fit — strikes a deal with his old captain: If he drives Lulu to her previous owner’s funeral in Arizona, the captain will let him come back.

Thus begins a road trip, and Briggs, an unpleasant schlub who starts out not liking Lulu, winds up in some unnecessarily over-the-top mischief. He’s drugged and tied up by a hippie, who then apologizes and smokes pot with him; he tries to have a threesome with two Oregonian sex therapists, but is interrupted by a PETA-type who tries to free his canine comrade; and he pretends to be a blind man to get a free hotel room. 

All we want is to say “aww” a lot — nobody is asking for the Marx Brothers here. The antics are surely what earned the movie a PG-13 rating, which makes no sense for a family film about a freakin’ dog.

Briggs (Channing Tatum) is tasked with bringing Lulu to her previous owner's funeral in Arizona.
Briggs (Channing Tatum) is tasked with bringing Lulu to her previous owner’s funeral in Arizona.

Anyhow, the best bits are calmer exchanges on the road or a warm scene in a barn during a storm that frightens Lulu because the thunder outside sounds like bombs. As she relaxes by watching her favorite show, “Grey’s Anatomy,” on a little old TV, we begin to see the color return to Lulu’s face. 

Shamelessly sentimental — but awfully hard to be cranky about — is the funeral when Lulu is reunited with her owner who died at a young age. You can guess what she does, and you’ll cry, unless of course you are an ex-KGB agent or a living statue in Times Square.

Tatum (he also co-directs with Reid Carolin) was a good pick for Briggs because he’s easily likable without overdoing it. Acting alongside a dog is always a humbling experience because, chances are, nobody’s eyes are on you. 

The actor lets his cuddly co-star shine and wrings out a few touching moments of his own, too.

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