"Dog" is a buddy comedy that follows the misadventures of two former Army Rangers paired against their will on the road trip of a lifetime. Army Ranger Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum) and Lulu (a Belgian Malinois dog) buckle into a 1984 Ford Bronco and race down the Pacific Coast in hopes of making it to a fellow soldier's funeral on time. Along the way, they II drive each other completely crazy, break a small handful of laws, narrowly evade death, and learn to let down their guards in order to have a fighting chance of finding happiness.
"Dog" is about a road trip that a guy takes with a dog. But more than all of that, it's a movie about the uncanny ability of road trips to go awry in the craziest possible ways and how animals can be healing, even when relationships with them aren't unconditionally effortless. So perhaps, it's that easy to describe it, a road trip that a guy takes with a dog, in the end, they rescue each other. This dog in particular, an anxious, boisterous Belgian Malinois named Lulu. Lulu is the main character in the film. Lulu is a war hero, who worked with her handler Riley Rodriguez (Eric Urbiztando), who served in the Army Rangers with Jackson Briggs for many years. But for a road trip movie to have the perfect tinge of Americana, you first need the perfect car. A sleek, vintage, blue ’84 Bronco to hit the highways. Sadly, Rodriguez has passed, and it's up to Briggs to pack this dog into his ’84 Bronco and drive her down the Pacific Coast to Rodriguez's family in time for the funeral in Arizona.
Briggs, however, has no interest in this trip, after a traumatic brain injury, his interest lies in getting back to active duty. The only way to make that happen? To do his C.O. a solid and get Lulu to the funeral on time. Driving a dog to a destination? How hard can it be? Pretty difficult, it turns out. No road trip movie is fun without antics, have you ever taken a road trip with no antics? It's impossible. Malinois, they love to tear stuff apart, and we've a sequence where the dog escaped from her cage and she's destroying the insides of the car. She chews up the seats. So, needless to say, it's his worst nightmare that this dog just treats it with utter disrespect. A car has always got to get destroyed on the road. It's not a road trip if it's not. "Dog" certainly lives by this adage. But along the way Briggs and Lulu bond in an unexpected way, even through adventures with ornery pot growers, a car break-in, and a luxury hotel con.
Lulu needs a comfortable bed, so says a pet psychic they meet on the road. Needless to say, Lulu and Briggs both bring a lot of emotional baggage on this trip. Lulu also comes with an owner's manual, which is something most people in the military actually create. They can range from a simple book of all their military paperwork to a beautifully designed scrapbook, filled with mementos. For Lulu, this was a book full of letters written by Rodriguez to her and DVDs that calm her anxiety down. Though Briggs mocks it at first, he grows to embrace its highlights getting to know Lulu through Rodriguez's eyes. Along the way they encounter outlandish characters who not only bring comic relief to Briggs's mission, but teach him about trauma, healing, and bonding. Meeting a lot of eccentric people. Mean locals. Why are the locals so mean? You're bringing them business. South Park did something good with theis cliche. We don't care much for your kind round here. Gus (Kevin Nash) and Tamara (Jane Adams) are cannabis farmers who create some real drama for Briggs. While Gus initially mistakes Briggs for an interloper, Briggs ultimately befriends the couple.
What makes a good road-trip movie. The roots of the genre go back to classical literature such as “The Odyssey” and “Don Quixote". In case you don't know, a road movie is a film genre in which the main characters leave home to travel from place to place, typically altering the perspective from their everyday lives. What are some common elements in the genre you can think of that are done to death or are just plain cheesy and annoying? The story for "Dog" is initially inspired by the documentary 'War Dog: A Soldier's Best Friend' (HBO, 2017). The Rangers do very specialized things, so they've these walls up, but a dog can come in to the room and turn hardened soldiers into these puppy dog sort of loving guys. Belgian Malinois are also known as Dutch Shepherds, and most people associate them with military, Secret Service or Navy SEALS. Road movies are our favorite kinds of movies..They make you feel something and expose you to new ideas and places and wild characters.
Casting a movie is never an easy task, but how do you audition for a co-star when it's a four-legged friend? For "Dog", that means working with three dogs, Britta, Zuza and Lana. The three dogs are wonderful, like really great acting. And watching them act is magical for everyone. There's a certain irony in bonding with an animal just so you can both act like you're not bonded. In dog movies, typically the way you see an animal is in an insert shot. There's a trainer right off camera doing something so the dog does a specific behavior and then you cut back to the action. Characters are on a quest for something or someone and what happens, is that they discover themselves along the way. The idea of a road trip is to expand your consciousness. The road picture is like that, going from place to place, meeting all sorts of people. It’s a cliche, it’s about the journey, not the destination. There's nothing new under the sun.
It's a completely different world, but at the same time, feels very natural, because it's very military in the way it's chaotic but everyone seems to know what they're doing. The movie wants to capture the personality and the spirit of the Rangers and their dogs as well. Don't worry about tropes and clichés. You need to have the cliches that define road movies in the script, otherwise it wouldn't really be a road movie. And that's the guiding spirit of the movie.
Written by Gregory Mann
Personal Note: This winter, homebound with writing deadlines, I watched “Paris, Texas” again. This time, undistracted by the road, I turned my focus to the narrative and the characters. At the end, I wept.