In 'Dog,' Army Ranger Saves Dog so Dog Can Save Army Ranger

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Channing Tatum drives a truck as Lulu the dog watches in "Dog."
Former Army Ranger Jackson Briggs (Channing Tatum) and Lulu the military working dog try to find a way to deal with each other on a road trip in "Dog." (MGM)

Channing Tatum stars in and co-directed "Dog," a new movie that's one of those comedies that wants you to cry at the end. It works.

"Dog" is set for a theatrical-only release on Feb. 18, 2022, and its box-office performance will be a sure sign whether people have decided that the COVID-19 omicron variant has receded enough to make them feel safe in a movie theater.

Tatum plays Jackson Briggs, a former Army Ranger who was medically retired after sustaining a traumatic brain injury during a mission. He's desperate to get back into the game by taking a job with a private military contractor, but the contractor won't put him into rotation until he's medically cleared and has a recommendation from his former commanding officer.

He mysteriously claims that he's got the clearance and just needs that recommendation. His captain at first blows him off but then comes up with a proposal. If Briggs completes a task for his old Ranger unit, his captain will make the call that will secure the job.

We've got a clip from the moment when Briggs returns to base to find out what he's got to give up to get what he wants.

Here's the deal: Sgt. Riley Rodriguez, a military dog handler who served alongside Briggs, has just died after his car crashed into a tree near Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. His family is holding the funeral in Nogales, Arizona, and wants Lulu, the Belgian Malinois dog who served with Riley, to attend the funeral.

Unfortunately, the dog is emotionally damaged by the same explosion that forced Briggs' retirement and, if anything, she's handling life even worse than our Ranger. Briggs has to drive her to Arizona, attend the funeral and then deliver her to base at White Sands, New Mexico, where Lulu will meet her fate.

What follows is a hero's journey where Briggs and Lulu learn to get along after the dog destroys Briggs' truck interior, ruins an exotic romantic encounter, runs off to bust a pot farm, and blows their cover after Briggs scams them a free luxury hotel suite.

Tatum motormouths his way through the movie, talking to himself as much as he's talking to the dog in the back of his truck. Eventually, they learn to trust one another as they overcome obstacles that seem to doom their mission.

They have an amazing encounter with another veteran played by Ethan Suplee, the actor perhaps best known as Louie Lastik in "Remember the Titans." Dude has lost hundreds of pounds, and now he's legitimately ripped. Suplee has adopted Lulu's brother, another military working dog who was deemed too damaged to live by the Army. He's worked with the pup and has just adopted the very good boy, who hangs out peacefully with the family's young children.

Briggs is actually in no shape to take any sort of contractor gig, and the movie doesn't hold back from showing the struggles connected with his TBI. Eventually, Briggs and Lulu recognize each other's struggles, and the Ranger is confronted with a life-and-death decision at the end of the film.

"Dog" was inspired by the 2017 HBO documentary, "War Dog: A Soldier's Best Friend," which was produced by Tatum's longtime assistant, Brett Rodriguez. "Magic Mike" screenwriter Reid Carolin co-wrote the "Dog" script with Rodriguez and co-directed the movie with Tatum. The film they made makes it clear that it was a labor of love for all three men.

Back in the 1990s, "Dog" would've been a big summer movie starring Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis and a surefire commercial hit. Things have changed since then, and it'll be fascinating to learn whether a movie that's both a comedy and a tearjerker (but too racy for the entire family) can find an audience with a winter theatrical release in 2022.

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