Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 02/09/22

The buzz about DOG. Most anyone who has ever formed a deep relationship with a dog (count me as one) knows that there’s a lot going on in the minds and hearts of these furry creatures that go far beyond the idea among some that they are “just animals.” We know they think, they feel and they love without judgement. They just lack the ability to communicate in words – though they do find other ways to convey messages to us, often with their eyes. They are, in a special way, connected to God and are a reflection of His unconditional love for us.

All that may help explain the enduring appeal of movies like DOG, the canine buddy comedy starring Channing Tatum (set for theatrical release Friday, 2/18) who co-directed the film with its screenwriter Reid Carolin. The pair spoke about the genesis and meaning of the film at a virtual press conference on Saturday.

Tatum explained that – though the road trip plot about Army Ranger Briggs (Channing Tatum) and Lulu (a Belgian Malinois dog) racing down the Pacific Coast to attend a fellow soldier’s funeral is fictional – the movie was inspired by his relationship with his own pet dog Lulu.

Channing Tatum: I’ve had dogs my whole life…I guess the-the inspiration or the theme of the movie came from an experience I had with my dog…Lulu was my dog that I raised from like six months or six weeks old. I mean, she was just a little tiny ball of fur and grew into a big strong Catahoula Pitbull mix and she lived about 11 years. (When) she got sick (I) took her on a road trip (for) some of her last days. And, you know, (there were) some really profound, sort of lessons, in those last days with her just like surrendering and (her) acceptance. (I) came back and told my buddy about the trip and we kinda started talking about the story. And, you know, we played around with that actual story of the sort of bucket list trip of a dog (but) it just was a little too sad. It wasn’t really emblematic of me and Lulu (and our) life together. Our life was an adventure – and it was joyful and funny and hilarious and crazy at times. And that’s the kind of story that we wanted to tell. So, we went in this direction. (Reid and I) had already done the (HBO documentary War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend in 2017) so (the concept sort of flowed from that too).

Reid Carolin: I think one of the the things I would add, in terms of nailing the handler and dog relationship, is one of the things we heard from all the guys in our our documentary film – that the dog became more than just a dog. It became a person, a soldier, a brother, a sister. It was not looked at as a dog inside that unit. I hope that by the end of (DOG)…the audience feels that way about Lulu (in the movie). It’s why we called the movie DOG.

I think people look at the title and go “Oh, it must have been come up in a marketing meeting or something like that because it tested really well. In truth, it’s quite the opposite. It’s about the way we clinically look at these animals. We label them just as animals – and, over time, the more extraordinary they become to us, the deeper we see them, they more they become just like us.

CT: (In the movie) Briggs really (starts) caring about (Lulu). He doesn’t care about her in the beginning. Slowly he just finds himself trying harder and harder to make this dog happier and keep her out of trouble…(He) starts just wanting to do the job and then it’s like (he wants her time) on this planet (to be good). She’s was a soldier just like him and this is just kinda what happens, you know? And he softens and, ultimately, we played around with this idea…The more he cares about the dog and wanting a new life for this dog and wanting the dog to have a chance, he kind of almost inadvertently sort of does that for himself.

RC: I think most (really good) movies, if you kinda break them down to their essential elements (and) this is a broad generalization they’re mostly journeys about characters who go from closed to open.

What we found is these dogs (connect with) a community of people who are very closed off to the outside world (and) their emotional experiences, They need to shut those down because it’s an essential element of their survival. The dogs have the ability to open them up.

End Note: DOG arrives in theaters Friday, February 18th.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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