Dog – A Buddy Comedy About A Guy Who Takes A Road Trip With His Dog

For Channing Tatum Dog marks his directorial debut — he co-directed with producing partner Reid Carolin, who wrote the script from a story developed with Brett Rodriguez. 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 is 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, is a war hero, who worked with her handler Riley Rodriguez — who served in the Army Rangers with Jackson Briggs (Tatum) — for many years. 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. 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 — an I Love Me Book, 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. 

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 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’ll 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.

How Two Best Friends Made A Movie About Man’s Best Friend

For Tatum and Carolin, the inspiration for Dog came from a very real place. Dog was inspired by a documentary the pair produced for HBO called War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend. They were fortunate to get to know many in the Army Rangers community who work in the Special Operations with their dogs. And while several movies about the military have focused on action and combat, they realized there were many more stories to tell.

“The Rangers do very specialized things, so they have these walls up, but a dog can come into the room and turn hardened soldiers into these puppy dog sort of loving guys,” says Tatum, who during a particularly tough time in his life, lost his longtime best friend, his dog Lulu. “So, we went through a bunch of different machinations of how to tell that story: What is that bond between a human and a dog?”

Channing Tatum with producing partner Reid Carolin.

For their directorial debut, the pair wanted to choose something that was particularly meaningful to both of them. On the heels of the documentary they produced, they decided to continue to explore that connection. To move forward, Carolin says, they worked out how to bring it out of the military world and into this world of the road by thinking through all the epic road trips they had taken.

“When we connected all the dots of these experiences we’ve had in life, everything pointed us toward making a road movie. So, we decided to set this movie on that type of canvas in hopes of bringing people into this world of Special Operations soldiers and their dogs, that’s very insular,” Carolin says. “Road movies are our favourite kinds of movies. Mostly because they’re full of heart and humour. They make you feel something and expose you to new ideas and places and wild characters.”

Representation and authenticity were paramount to Carolin and Tatum. They had gotten to know some Rangers from the documentary, who eventually brought more guys they were connected to into the orbit. So, all of the scenes that were filmed with any military connection — from Fort Lewis in Washington to Pat Berry’s bar to Rodriguez’s funeral — were filled with actual military folks. And they weren’t only in front of the camera, but behind the scenes as well. 

“Whenever, wherever possible, we included real folks in this whole process. They were in charge of every creative decision in terms of how the production design looked in those worlds,” Carolin says.

To that effect, they brought on former Army Ranger Donovan Hunter as a consultant. Hunter, who was a Ranger for seven years as a dog handler and then worked for the police department as a dog handler, now trains dogs at a kennel. He has done a lot in his life, but he’d never spent much time on a movie set.

The Dog And Pony Show (Casting)

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 meant working with three incredible dogs, each of whom encompasses all the traits they were looking to explore: Britta, Zuza and Lana.

“We had to have a Swiss army knife of dogs, in a way,” Tatum says.

Belgian Malinois are also known as Dutch Shepherds, and most people associate them with the military, Secret Service or Navy SEALS, says Animal Coordinator Andrew Simpson, whose company, Instinct Animals for Film, was responsible for casting the dogs in the movie.

“We looked at probably 150 dogs to try and find these characters,” Simpson says. “And we knew this movie wasn’t your typical Belgian Malinois movie. A lot of this was character-driven — the dog had to face emotional moments and it also had to be able to have an emotional connection to the lead actor.”

“They were wildly beautiful creatures,” says Tatum. “I’ve been around dogs my whole life; we had ranch dogs, house dogs, I’ve had lap dogs… but these are different. They have cat-quick reflexes but where a cat chills and sleeps most of the day, these dogs are 100 per cent all the time.”

One of the most special things about this film is the attention paid to the dogs and how prepped they were to be on-screen: two of the three were flown in from Europe and trained for over a year to prepare. Carolin and Tatum focused on photographing dogs in a way that most dog movies don’t, in order to truly make Lulu a main character in the film.

“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 behaviour and then you cut back to the action,” Carolin says. “We really wanted to do as much as possible in wide shots, where the dog had learned behaviour and could interact with Channing in a more complex way. Our trainers were so incredible. And Channing spent months working with these dogs every day so that we were able to achieve a level of realism that most animal movies don’t.” 

For Tatum, being around dogs comes naturally, so it was tough for him to pretend he couldn’t connect with one, let alone three. There’s a certain irony in bonding with an animal just so you can both act like you’re not bonded.

And watching them act was magical for everyone. “The three dogs are wonderful, like really great acting, so fine and subtle and beautiful,” Adams says.

Road Dogs (Road Trippin’)

Tatum recalls a road trip — one of many, he says — that he and Carolin took a few years back.

They had a truck built to go off-roading and spent three days in the desert just tearing it up. When they got back, Tatum was driving down Hollywood Boulevard with people just staring at the destroyed car that sounded like it was about to explode: “There’s just a thing that happens on a road trip when your car is pretty jacked up afterwards. You feel like you did a good job.”

Adds Carolin: “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 for a road trip movie to have the perfect tinge of Americana, you first need the perfect car. The guys decided on a sleek, vintage, blue ’84 Bronco to hit the highways. Because you have to have a beautifully restored car if you’re going to feel Briggs’ true anxiety when Lulu rips it up. 

“Lulu destroys the car. She chews up the seats,” says Carolin. “And it’s Briggs’ prize possession. You know, he took probably a year to restore this car, handstitched the leather and everything. So, needless to say, it’s his worst nightmare that this dog just treats it with utter disrespect. They go head-to-head in the car quite a bit. And that’s where a lot of the fun in the movie came for us, doing these scenes where this guy who is absolutely in love with having worked on this precious automobile comes into contact with this dog who couldn’t give a damn about anything that he wants or likes in life.”

For all the scenes of conflict between Briggs and Lulu — and there are many — there is way too much fun to be had watching this dog go buck wild on such a cool car. Apparently, it was fun for the dogs, too.

“Malinois, they love to tear stuff apart, and we had a sequence where the dog escaped from her cage and she’s destroying the insides of the car,” Simpson says. “So, when we shot it, we were able to use two different dogs. And it’s fun when you can take a dog that is trained to do all these certain things and to look a certain way — and you can just go: hey, this is what you want to do, have fun and rip the crap out of these seats.”

The Filmmakers

Channing Tatum is known for his work both on-screen as an actor and behind-the-scenes as a producer and director. Tatum produced and co-directed Dog with his producing partner Reid Carolin through their banner Free Association.

Last year, he added New York Times #1 Best Selling author to his body of work when his first children’s book entitled The One and Only Sparkella debuted at the top spot in May 2021. The second book in the series, The One and Only Sparkella Makes A Plan, will be released this summer. 

In March, he can be seen starring alongside Sandra Bullock in Paramount Pictures, The Lost City. Tatum will soon begin production on Magic Mike’s Last Dance, the third film in the Magic Mike franchise, directed by Steven Soderbergh. He will follow that with a starring role in Zoe Kravitz’s directorial debut Pussy Island, which Kravitz co-wrote with E.T. Feigenbaum.

His film credits include Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky; Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle; the critically-acclaimed drama Foxcatcher; The Coen Brother’s Hail Caesar!, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, 21 and 22 Jump Street, Magic Mike and Magic Mike Xxl, among others. In 2014, Tatum launched his production company Free Association with his two partners Reid Carolin and Peter Kiernan, which now has a First-Look deal at MGM.

Reid Carolin is a director, screenwriter, and producer whose latest film is Dog, a road-trip comedy that he wrote and co-directed with his longtime creative collaborator, Channing Tatum. The story for Dog, which Carolin co-created with former soldier, Brett Rodriguez, was initially inspired by his experience producing the documentary War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend (HBO, 2017), which profiled the incredible relationships between Army Ranger multi-purpose K9’s and their handlers. MGM will release DOG domestically on February 18th, 2022,

Carolin recently wrote the screenplay for Magic Mike’s Last Dance (Wb/Hbomax, 2022), the latest instalment of the Magic Mike franchise, which will be directed by Steven Soderbergh. He previously wrote and produced Magic Mike (Warner Bros, 2012), and Magic Mike Xxl (Warner Bros, 2015), as well as co-directed, wrote and produced Magic Mike Live, an immersive theatrical show inspired by the Magic Mike film franchise. The production launched in Las Vegas in 2016 and has since opened additional shows in Berlin, Australia, and London. 

In the non-fiction space, Carolin is currently adapting Medal Of Honor winner Clint Romesha’s New York Times Bestselling memoir, Red Platoon, for Sony Pictures, Josh Bratman, and George Clooney and Grant Heslov’s Smokehouse Pictures. He also wrote and produced Earth Made Of Glass (HBO, 2010), a documentary chronicling the search for truth in post-genocide Rwanda, for which he won a Peabody Award and was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2011 Producer’s Guild Awards. 

Carolin and his business partners, Channing Tatum and Peter Kiernan founded their production company, Free Association, in 2014. Most recently, they produced Fatherhood (Netflix, 2021), starring Kevin Hart, and the animated comedy, America: The Motion Picture (Netflix, 2021). They are currently in post-production on Spaceman Of Bohemia (Netflix, 2022), starring Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan and Paul Dano, and directed by Johan Renck (Chernobyl)

Free Association Projects currently in pre-production include Gorilla And The Bird (HBO), directed by Jean Marc Vallée; New York Will Eat You Alive (STX and TenCent), starring Colin Firth; and Untitled Monster Project (Universal) with longtime collaborators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, which Carolin created the story for. Carolin’s additional producing credits include Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky, 22 Jump Street, Roland Emmerich’s Whtie House Down, 10 Years (starring Tatum, Chris Pratt, Kate Mara, Rosario Dawson, Aubrey Plaza, Oscar Isaac and Anthony Mackie), and Stop-Loss (starring Ryan Phillipe, Abbie Cornish, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tatum). Carolin graduated from Harvard College and resides in Los Angeles.