Dog ★★★

"Dog" is what you'd get if you mixed "K-9" with "The Last Detail". Or, at least it feels like that based on my vague memories of those movies...neither of which I have seen since my teenage years. Channing Tatum is a former soldier trying to get back into mission rotations after being sidelined by brain injuries. His former commanding officer claims that he will get him an assignment if he can escort a military service dog to the funeral of its handler within a few days and then take the dog to a military base where it will be euthanized.

Tatum agrees to the assignment, but finds it a lot more difficult than he expects. The dog is dealing with the same trauma as Tatum is but, being an animal, he's not coping quite as well. In fact, Tatum isn't coping very well either, and he comes to realize that in his time taking care of the dog.

The themes of the film were obvious from the one trailer I saw. The movie isn't subtle, but it's more effective than I anticipated. It's a movie of heavy subjects, a movie about trauma and adjusting to living with it in healthy ways...after trying all of the UNhealthy ones. But it nicely balances its heavier content with moments of humor and heart. I'm an easy touch for emotional content so it's unsurprising that "Dog" snuck its way into my heart. It touched me and it amused me, though not as much as I hoped. It feels broad and down-the-middle with just enough edgy moments to give it a hint of surprise. Its road trip structure has been done to death, and I've seen PLENTY of movies about trauma and the effects of combat on soldiers who've participated but these themes are important and evergreen and using a canine to deal with them gives "Dog" just enough novelty to make it feel somewhat fresh at times.

"Dog" isn't the most revolutionary film I have seen, dealing with tropes and cliches virtually every step of the way and none of its set pieces felt like anything I hadn't seen in some form before, but it does ground those tropes and present them with a winning earnestness. Tatum is an engaging performer with oodles of charm and a bit of edge to him and the dog is quite good. None of this is extraordinary, but it all works nonetheless.

One thing that bothered me, though: why cast the criminally underused Q'Orianka Kilcher (of Malick's "The New World") and then give her no lines and have her be basically blurry in the background for two scenes? Feels like a waste of an actress who deserves better...and has been routinely wasted over the decades. #JusticeforQ'orianka

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