On August 16, 2023, a special screening for Universal Pictures’ stray dogs comedy “Strays” (released in theaters on August 18, 2023) was held at Universal CityWalk in Universal City, California. Attendees included the dog stars of the movie: Sophie, a Border Terrier, who plays Reggie in the movie; Bennie, a Boston Terrier, who portrays Bug in the movie; Elsa, an Australian Shepherd, who protrays Maggie in the movie; and Dalin, a Great Dane who portrays Hunter in the movie. (Culture Mix’s review of “Strays” can be found here.) Here are photos from the event.
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the comedy film “Strays” features a cast of dogs and a predominantly white group of people (with some African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: Four stray dogs band together to get revenge on the sleazy and abusive man who abandoned one of the stray dogs.
Culture Audience: “Strays” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and anyone who doesn’t mind watching intentionally vulgar comedies about adorable animals that have some sweetness with the raunchiness.
The purpose of “Strays” is to disrupt the image that people have of movies where cute animals talk. It’s the “Jackass” of talking animal movies: crude, comedic camaraderie. If you can’t tolerate a lot of jokes about bodily functions, then avoid this film.
Directed by Josh Greenbaum and written by Dan Perrault, “Strays” has been very clear in its marketing that this movie is not a “family-friendly film” that’s appropriate for people of all ages. This is most definitely a very adult-oriented film for adults who aren’t easily offended when watching movies filled with cursing, gross-out scenes involving body waste, and explicit talk about sex. The fact that domesticated dogs who talk like humans are supposed to be the source of all this raunch is the whole point of the movie.
In “Strays” (which takes place in an unnamed U.S. city but was filmed in and around Stone Mountain, Georgia), viewers are first introduced to the movie’s narrator. He’s an optimistic and eager-to-please Border Terrier (voiced by Will Ferrell), who has lived his entire life with a loser named Doug (played by Will Forte), who never gave this dog an official name. Instead, Doug calls the dog horrible names that usually have the word “shit” in the name. (In real life, this Border Terrier is a female named Sophie.)
In the beginning of the movie, bachelor Doug is unemployed and living in a messy house. Doug spends his days and nights getting stoned and masturbating. A phone conversation between Doug and his mother reveals that Doug can’t live near a school that has children, which is the movie’s way of saying that Doug is a registered sex offender. Because the Border Terrier doesn’t know any better, he thinks Doug is a great person.
Doug likes to do something that the Border Terrier thinks is a game called “Fetch and Fuck.” Doug throws a tennis ball far away, so the Border Terrier can run off and fetch the ball. Doug only does this because he hopes the dog will get lost and never find his way back home. When the dog inevitably does find his way back home, Doug says out loud in anger: “Fuck!”
One day, Doug drives the Border Terrier several miles away, into the inner part of a big city where the dog has never been to before. Doug throws the tennis ball, knowing that this dog will be too far away to walk back to the house. Doug then drives away. Doug’s heinous plan works, and the Border Terrier gets lost.
While out on the street at night, the Border Terrier meets a rebellious and tough-talking Boston Terrier named Bug (voiced by Jamie Foxx), who sees how naïve this Border Terrier is and offers to teach him how to survive on the streets as a stray dog. (This Boston Terrier’s name is real life is Benny.) Bug calls this Border Terrier the name Reggie, since that’s the name that one of Doug’s girlfriends used to call this Border Terrier.
Bug tells Reggie that humans can’t be trusted and a dog’s life is better without having an owner because the dog has the freedom to do whatever the dog wants. Bug believes that humans “brainwash” dogs into thinking that dogs need humans. Bug also tells Reggie that stray dogs shouldn’t get too close to other dogs either, because all stray dogs should eventually learn to fend for themselves. Bug’s past is eventually revealed to explain why he detests humans. One of Bug’s quirks is that he is fixated on humping inanimate objects, including furniture (Sofia Vergara voices a character called Dolores the Coach) and lawn decorations.
Soon, Reggie is introduced to two of Bug’s closest dog acquaintances: Maggie (voiced by Isla Fisher) is an Australian Shepherd who is intelligent and has a super-keen sense of smell. She is a stray because her previous owners preferred to have a puppy. (In real life, this Australian Shepherd’s name is Elsa.) Hunter (voiced by Randall Park) is a Great Dane who is insecure and often fearful. Hunter trained to be a police dog, but instead he was placed in a retirement home to be a therapy dog for the elderly residents, and he ran away. (In real life, this Great Dane’s name is Dalin.)
This motley canine quartet then goes on a series of misadventures. All other animals in the movie do not talk. The only living beings that talk in the movie are dogs and humans. An English bulldog named Chester (voiced by Jamie Demetriou) makes a brief but memorable appearance as a neurotic dog who imagines that there is an invisible, electrical fence surrounding his front yard. The four strays also encounter a German Shepherd named Rolf (voiced by Rob Riggle), a K-9 police dog who trained with Hunter at the same K-9 academy.
Two other noteworthy dog characters in the movie are a philosophical Labrador Retriever named Gus (voiced by Josh Gad) and a feisty Chihuahua named Shitstain (voiced by Harvey Guillén), who is almost as combative as Bug. And when there’s a movie about stray dogs roaming around a city, there are inevitable scenes of the dogs trying to evade capture from the animal control officers. “Strays” also has some scenes that take place in an animal shelter, where an animal control officer named Willy (played by Brett Gelman) has a job that’s similar to a jail guard/janitor.
Dennis Quaid makes a cameo portraying himself as a bird watcher. Why is Quaid in this movie? Quaid is the star of 2017’s “A Dog’s Purpose” and 2019’s “A Dog’s Journey,” two sentimental dramas about a “talking” dog (voiced by Gad) who gets reincarnated and whose thoughts are heard in voiceover narration. Quaid and Gad being cast in “Strays” is obviously the “Strays” filmmakers’ way of poking fun at family-oriented talking dog movies.
For a great deal of the story, Reggie is denial that Doug abandoned him and that Doug is not a good person. When the truth finally sinks in with Reggie, he decides that he’s going to get revenge on Doug, with the help of his new stray dog friends. If anyone watching “Strays” complains about how unrealistic this movie is, the question must be asked: “What part of ‘talking dog movie’ do you not understand?”
The comedy in “Strays” is far from award-worthy, but it does bring some laughs, and it doesn’t try to pretend to be lofty art. The biggest flaw in “Strays” is an over-reliance on jokes and gags about defecation. However, the best parts of the movie have to do with the friendship that develops between these four dogs. Hunter has a crush on Maggie, so there’s potential for more than a friendship between them.
The expressions on these dogs’ faces are enough to charm viewers who like dogs, although obviously much of what is in the movie involves visual effects using computer-generated imagery. The voice actors also play their roles capably, with Foxx and Ferrell being the obvious standouts. As long as viewers don’t have skewed or misunderstood expectations for “Strays,” it can be amusing entertainment with some genuine, laugh-out-loud moments. It’s not the type of comedy for everyone, but neither is “Jackass.”
Universal Pictures will release “Strays” in U.S. cinemas on August 18, 2023.
Directed by Sadhvi Siddhali Shree and Sadhvi Anubhuti
Some language in Spanish with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in the Houston area, the documentary film “For the Animals” features a group of predominantly white people (with some Latin people and African Americans) who are involved in some way in giving animal care to stray domesticated animals, particularly dogs.
Culture Clash: Animal rescuers face an uphill battle against limited resources and limited shelter space for stray animals, as well as pet owners’ resistance to spaying and neutering animals to reduce overpopulation.
Culture Audience: “For the Animals” will appeal mainly to people who like dogs and are interested in behind-the-scenes stories of rescuing stray dogs.
“For the Animals” is an educational and inspirational documentary about rescue efforts for stray dogs. The location is in Houston, but the lessons learned can apply to any area. The twin sisters who star in the movie are appealing and memorable advocates. Although the movie’s title implies that other animals will be prominently featured in this documentary, make no mistake: This documentary is all about rescuing dogs. And that’s okay, but the documentary’s title could have been more specific to the fact that this is a dog-oriented film.
Directed by Sadhvi Siddhali Shree and Sadhvi Anubhuti, “For the Animals” (which is Anubhuti’s feature-film directorial debut) chronicles the rescue work of identical twins Tama Lundquist and Tena Lundquist Faust, the co-founders and co-presidents of the non-profit group Houston PetSet, which was founded in 2004. An unsourced caption shown in the beginning of the documentary says, “It’s estimated that over a million stray animals are roaming the streets of Houston.” There’s no way to verify that statistic, especially if you consider “stray animals” can be rodents, insects and birds, not just dogs and cats.
Whatever the real number is for stray animals in Houston, “For the Animals” shows that there’s an alarming number of stray dogs in the Houston area. Lundquist and Lundquist Faust are two of the people who are doing positive things about this overpopulation problem. Houston PetSet is one of the animal rescue groups that is aimed at giving a better life for these animals by providing the money and resources for food, medical care (including spay/neuter services), foster care and eventual adoption, if the animals are able to be placed safely in a home. Lundquist and Lundquist Faust personally go out on the streets of Houston to be part of these rescue efforts, as shown in several scenes in the movie.
The documentary mentions more than once what experienced animal rescuers and their advocates already know: It’s not enough to take stray animals off of the streets and find them good homes. There has to be enough low-cost or free spay and neuter resources available in the area, in order to reduce overpopulation of stray dogs and cats. Many of these stray animals have a parent that is not a stray, but the pet owners often can’t or won’t get these pets spayed and neutered. It’s mentioned that in certain cultures, it’s considered taboo or unnecessary to spay and neuter dogs and cats, with neutering especially disapproved of by people who think male animals should never be sterilized.
All of the animal rescuers interviewed in the documentary say that the stray animal overpopulation in Houston is getting worse. Government-run animal shelters are overwhelmed by not having enough space for stray animals, so these government-run shelters almost always use euthanasia on animals that don’t get adopted in a limited period of time, in order to make room for new animals who arrive at the shelters. It’s usually up to privately funded groups to have “no kill” animal shelters.
Who are these twin sisters who are a strikingly passionate duo of animal rescuers? “For the Animals” doesn’t go too deep into their backgrounds, but Lundquist and Lundquist Faust both say in separate interviews that they wanted to be animal rescuers because they developed a love of animals from a very early age. Lundquist is the grittier sister who’s more likely to be hands-on with dirty and sick stray dogs that they find on the streets. Lundquist Faust is the more glamorous sister who’s more likely to come up with business ideas.
Both sisters seem to be fairly affluent (based on what their homes look like in the documentary), and they’re capable of hosting million-dollar fundraisers with Houston’s high-society people, but the twins are not super-rich themselves. Susan Boggio, a philanthropist/animal rescuer/PetSet benefactor, is interviewed in the documentary. Not surprisingly, Boggio has nothing but good things to say about Houston PetSet.
Each sister has multiple dogs and tell the stories about rescuing at least one of their dogs. Lundquist talks about adopting her dog Sunny after finding him as a stray all by himself in Houston’s Sunnyside neighborhood, on a night of freezing rain. She was so upset by thinking about him being along in the cold rain, she went back the next day to find him and keep him for herself. Lundquist Faust shares her story about adopting her dog Benjamin, who was also a stray. Benjamin was severely injured with broken bones and gunshot wounds, but “I was the only person he trusted,” says Lundquist Faust.
Lundquist says in a documentary interview that the twins’ parents were strict Scandinavians who didn’t show affection easily, which is why she and her sister were drawn to getting affection from animals when the twins were children. They had to beg their parents to get a pet dog and were heartbroken when their parents made them give away a family dog that the parents thought was too difficult. Lundquist says that she has a particular interest in rescuing stray animals because they remind her of “my own pain as a child, feeling lonely, feeling isolated, feeling not good enough.”
Lundquist Faust echoes those feelings and says of the stray animals that she and her sister rescue: “We have to assume that they’re traumatized, and treat them as such.” Lundquist Faust says that her husband Tyson Faust (who appears briefly in the documentary) encouraged her to become a full-time animal rescuer, which led to the formation of Houston PetSet. Lundquist Faust says she was deeply affected and disturbed by going to Monterrey, Mexico, and seeing how stray dogs there are often killed by electrocution.
The beginning of “For the Animals” shows the twins going to a run-down, garbage-littered area of Houston nicknamed The Corridor, which is a “dumping ground” for living and dead dogs. The twins are shown interacting with a street feeder (someone who feeds stray animals) named Sonya Franklin, who is a dog owner herself. Street feeders (who are usually women) almost always do these activities with no financial compensation, and they use their own money to pay for all of the expenses involved in feeding stray animals.
Animal rescue groups such as Houston PetSet rely on street feeders to keep them informed about specific animals that are in most need of rescuing and to give alerts about emergency situations. “For the Animals” shows Lundquist Faust and Lundquist working with Franklin to rescue two starving male dogs in The Corridor: a black and white older Labrador retriever mix that they name Walter and a brown and white pit bull mix (with injuries indicating that he was used in dog fighting) that they name Ozzy. “For the Animals” shows what ends up happening to Walter and Ozzy.
Jane Anne Wesson is another Houston street feeder who is shown working with Houston PetSet. In the documentary, Wesson has nothing but praise for Houston PetSet but is very open about her criticism of Houston’s government-run BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions, which does euthanasia on animals. Wesson says she would never want a stray animal to go to BARC, because it would mean almost certain death for that animal. Wesson also comments that stray animals are better off on the streets where they’ll “at least have a fighting chance” to survive, rather than being sent to BARC.
BARC director Greg Damianoff is somewhat depicted as a villain in “For the Animals,” which strategically shows archival news interview footage of him whenever there’s mention of people who run animal shelters but who don’t really care about the animals. In the interviews, Damianoff comes across as defensive and cocky. In one archival news interview, he denies accusations that he doesn’t care about animals and says: “Am I going to make everyone happy? I don’t think so.”
However, there’s no mention in “For the Animals” if this documentary’s filmmakers made any efforts to contact Damianoff for an interview or comment for this documentary. Likewise, no one else who works at BARC is interviewed in the documentary, although Fort Bend County Animal Services director Rene Vasquez is interviewed to give the perspective of someone who runs an animal shelter that uses euthanasia as a last resort. The documentary has people giving criticism of BARC but no one representing BARC to get BARC’s side of the story. It’s one of the flaws in the documentary, which toward the end somewhat looks like a promotional video for Houston PetSet.
However, “For the Animals” does a very good job of pointing out that if a community has a major problem with an overpopulation of stray animals, it’s an indication of larger problems in the community. Lundquist says in a documentary interview: “I keep going back to [the belief that] if these animals are suffering in these places, the people are too. What can we do for all of them? How do we alleviate the suffering? It doesn’t seem right to me. It seems like we can help all of them.”
One of the best parts of “For the Animals” is in how it shows the power of animal rescue groups working together, instead of competing against each other. The documentary includes footage of the twins in meetings with Houston PetSet employees. In one of these meetings, it’s decided that Houston PetSet will form a strategic alliance with another Houston-based animal rescue group called Emancipet, which has stronger outreach to Spanish-speaking neighborhoods than Houston PetSet does.
Emancipet vice president Angelita Sampaio says in a documentary interview: “Houston is very international … People move from another location where it’s normal for animals to roam.” Sampaio believes that part of solving the stray overpopulation problem is in helping people rethink some of their harmful beliefs that they might have been raised with about animals and animal care. For example, some cultures believe that taking pet animals for a veterinary checkup is unnecessary, even if a pet owner can afford to do it.
This rethinking about giving better animal care includes spreading the word about how animals that are not being raised for breeding can benefit from being spayed and neutered by having better health and longer lives. However, one of the obstacles is that even when people are offered free spaying and free neutering for their pets, many pet owners still resist the idea for cultural reasons. Sampaio says that when it comes to getting pet owners to give better animal care, she doesn’t like to use the word “educating,” because it sounds condescending. She likes to use the term “information sharing.”
“For the Animals” shows how Houston PetSet and Emancipet joined forces to get the word out in a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood about a free spay/neuter event hosted by Houston PetSet. Emancipet community outreach worker Stephanie Plata and community member Ernestina Zamarripa are shown being crucial allies in this outreach alliance. The event is said to be a success, although “For the Animals” doesn’t actually show this spay/neuter event, for reasons not explained in the documentary.
Part of running a successful animal rescue group is inevitable interaction with government officials. The twins are shown meeting with two of them: Greg Travis (a former member of the Houston City Council) and John Whitmire, a Texas state senator for District 15. At the time “For the Animals” was released, Whitmire was a candidate to be Houston’s mayor, with the outcome to be decided in a November 2023 general election.
Travis is one of the people in “For the Animals,” who speaks out against BARC, by sharing his own personal experience of adopting his dog Chloe from BARC. He says that he adopted her in part because BARC told him that Chloe was about to be euthanized for heartworm problems that BARC did not have the funds to treat. However, after adopting Chloe, Travis said medical tests proved that she did not have heartworm. Travis believes that BARC was using heartworm as a false reason to euthanize Chloe.
Travis also says in the documentary that Whitmire is one of the few Houston politicians who would actually work with rescue groups to do something about the stray overpopulation problem. Travis also makes it known that if Whitmire would be elected mayor of Houston, then Travis would want to be appointed the new director of BARC. Although Travis appears to be helpful in recommending Whitmire to Houston PetSet and seems to have good intentions, it appears that Travis has his own political agenda in doing so.
As for Whitmire, he claims to be a staunch supporter of animal rescue groups, but he gives a lot of canned politician talk in this documentary footage, such as saying, “You can’t fix the problem until you admit that you have one.” It would’ve been better if someone had asked him in the documentary what his specific plans were for improving animal care in Houston, instead of just letting Whitmire make vague statements. Other candidates in the 2023 Houston mayoral election are not interviewed in the documentary.
“For the Animals” isn’t a completely “feel good” documentary where everyone gets a happy ending. There are heartbreaking stories of animal abuse and neglect that result in death. The documentary also mentions the real-life dangers of feral and hungry stray dogs that can and have killed people. It’s probably why stray dogs, rather than stray cats, get more of the focus when there’s talk about stray domesticated animals being a public health problem.
The twins candidly talk about the emotional and physical toll that can happen from the stress of being an animal rescuer. They both say that this type of work takes a lot of time away from their loved ones. The twins worry about the damage that it does to their relationships and their physical well-being. That doesn’t mean that the twins are giving up anytime soon, but they know there will come a time in their lives when they have to slow down.
Lundquist’s adult son Cole Owen, who is briefly seen in the documentary, says that his mother’s life revolves around animal rescuing. Later, in the documentary, Lundquist breaks down and cries when she thinks about how she was preoccupied with a Houston PetSet fundraiser during a summer that she did not know would be the last summer she would spend with her father, who died in a car accident that December. She expresses regret that she didn’t spend more time with her father that summer.
Lundquist admits that when it comes to the problem of stray animal overpopulation, “I get so fucking mad at the people who don’t do anything, because if everybody could do a little bit, we could fix it.” Franklin makes a comment that is the biggest takeaway from the documentary and which sums up what motivates many animal rescuers/caregivers to get involved in saving helpless animals: “Everybody’s looking for someone else to do it, but we have to be the change we want to see.”
RouTTe One Productions released “For the Animals” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on July 28, 2023.
With catastrophic numbers of stray dogs roaming the streets of Houston TX, twin activists and philanthropists Tena Lundquist Faust and Tama Lundquist lead the charge and take matters into their own hands to save the animals they love. As more and more strays plague the city causing a public health crisis and attacking its residents, the sisters take to the streets for a hands-on approach.
There are too many citizens not caring for their pets and this problem has gone unchecked for decades, resulting in the worst animal crisis the city and county have seen. Through community outreach, direct work with local shelters and stray dog “feeders,” the sisters rescue strays right off the street, run weekly programs to provide free spay and neuter services to the community and work with politicians to take on the dark practices of Houston’s largest shelters that euthanize due to overcrowding. This was all exacerbated by COVID and the new policy of “managing the animal intake/limiting animal intake” in the shelters. As Tena and Tama seek to create a better life for the animals they love, they fight to prove that it takes just one person caring to make a difference.
Although For The Animals is set in Houston, it reflects the same issues cities across the U.S. face where approximately 6.3 million companion animals enter shelters yearly, according to the ASPCA. The film highlights both the grassroots efforts and the multiple animal welfare organizations struggling with the complex nature of solving this overwhelming issue where lack of resources and local bureaucracy each play a role.
Sadhvi Siddhali Shree and Sadhvi Anubhuti co-directed and co-produced the film with the support of human and animal rights activist Alyssa Milano as an Executive Producer.
Culture Representation: Taking place in China, the dramatic film “Hachiko” (based on a true story) features an all-Asian cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A college professor convinces his wife to let their family keep a stray Akita puppy that he found, and the puppy grows up to be a very loyal companion, even after tragedy strikes the family.
Culture Audience: “Hachiko” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching heartwarming stories (with some tearjerking moments) about family pets.
“Hachiko” is a worthy remake of the original film of the same name. This drama about a loyal family dog has some dull moments, but the movie has good performances. The tone is sentimental without overloading on schmaltz. Because the movie is based on a true story, many people might already know how this story is going to end. That doesn’t make watching the movie any less emotionally poignant.
Directed by Xu Ang, “Hachiko” makes some changes to the real story, as well as to previous movie versions of this true story. Xu co-wrote the “Hachiko” screenplay with Zhang Hansi, Li Liangwen and Li Lin. The movie is based on a true story of a male Akita dog named Hachikō, who lived in Japan, from November 1923 to March 1935. Hachikō showed unusual loyalty to his closest companion: a Tokyo-based college professor named Hidesaburō Ueno, who adopted Hachikō from a farm when Hachikō was a puppy.
This story has been made into several movies, beginning with the 1925 Japanese film “Hachikō.” The most famous and most commercially successful movie about this story is the 1987 drama “Hachikō Monogatari,” which was Japan’s biggest hit film of the year. An American movie version of the story, titled “Hachi: A Dog’s Story,” starring Richard Gere, was released in 2009.
The 2023 “Hachiko” movie is the Chinese version of the story. The movie takes place over a 15-year period. The dog is still an Akita, but the entire movie takes place in early 21st century China, not in the 1920s or 1930s.
The name of the dog in “Hachiko” is actually not Hachiko but is BaTong. That’s because in real life, Hachiko (which means “eighth prince” in Japanese) was the eighth puppy born in his litter. In the Chinese “Hachiko” movie, the dog is not adopted from a farm but is found as a stray puppy in a rural area. The professor who finds the dog and keeps him has no idea what the background information is for this puppy.
In the beginning of “Hachiko,” Chen Jingxiu (played by Feng Xioagang) is a mild-mannered professor who is living a comfortable but dull and stagnant life. The main disruption to his peace is when his cranky homemaker wife Li Jiazhen (played by Joan Chen) nags Jingxiu about the fact that he could be making more money if he had the talent and ambition to become a tenured professor. Jingxiu has been an associate professor for years without getting a job promotion.
Jingxiu and Jiazhen have two children—a son (played by Yang Bo) and a daughter (played by Eponine Huang)—who are teenagers at the beginning of the story and are in their 30s by the end of the story. Jiazhen spends a lot of time play mah jong with her female friends. And because Jiazhen gets irritated easily, she often says, “So annoying,” when she doesn’t like something.
The movie’s opening scene shows Jiazhen and her two children going back to visit the house that they lived in for years before moving away, for a reason explained later in the movie. The house is now abandoned and in a state of disrepair. This visit leads to Jiazhen to reminice about the years that she and her family lived there, beginning 15 years earlier. Most of the “Hachiko” is a flashback to those years.
During this flashback part of the movie, it shows early on how BaTong came into Jingxiu’s life. He and six or seven colleagues are riding on a private bus together, because they’re attending an event. The bus is going though a rural area in Yunyang County, China, when it gets stuck in the mud.
The passengers disembark from the bus to help the driver get the bus un-stuck. When all of a sudden, they see a 3-month-old Akita puppy underneath the bus. Jingxiu is immediately charmed by this frightened puppy. He picks up the dog and comforts the dog.
While the others are tending to the bus, Jingxiu walks around in the area to ask people in nearby houses if they know anything who might own this puppy. No one he asks knows anything about the dog, so Jingxiu decides to keep the dog, even though he knows that his wife Jiazhen doesn’t like dogs. He decides to name the puppy BaTong.
Jiazhen is predictably upset at the sight of the dog. She has a fear of dogs, ever since she was bitten by a dog when she was a child. Before she and Jingxiu got married, she made him promise that they would never have a dog in their household. Jingxiu tells her that he’s only going to keep this stray dog temporarily until he can find a permanent home for this adorable pup.
Jingxiu goes through the motions of putting up flyers around town to solicit adoption of the puppy. But he rejects people who answer the ads, for various reasons. Of course, we all know that Jingxiu doesn’t really want to give away this dog, and he ends up keeping it. Jingxiu becomes very attached to BaTong, by treating the dog as his best friend. Eventually, Jiazhen warms up to the dog and considers BaTong to be a member of the family too.
“Hachiko” shows that it isn’t all smooth sailing for Jingxiu and BaTong. When BaTong is a puppy and small enough to hide in a backpack, Jingxiu secretly brings the dog to work (he keeps the dog in his office), even though it’s against the campus policy for pet dogs to be the work offices.
BaTong’s presence on the campus isn’t a secret for long: One day, the escapes through an open office door while Jingxiu is teaching in a classroom. And you can easily predict the rest. Jingxiu doesn’t get in a lot of trouble for it, but BaTong is now officially banned from being in any building on the campus.
As BaTong grows up, he has a routine of accompanying Jingxiu to and from work, with BaTong patiently waiting outside in a campus area for his Jingxiu at the end of each day. BaTong has a routine of sitting on the same seat. A newsstand operator (played by Qian Bo) nearby gets to know BaTong and is friendly with the dog. The newsstand operator sometimes feeds treats to BaTong.
Jingxiu’s close bond with Batong comes at a price. It’s later revealed that Jingxiu’s son feels that Jingxiu treats the dog better than Jingxiu treats his own son. After the on graduates from college, there’s a subplot about the son contemplating taking a job as a web designed in Beijing. Jingxiu doesn’t seem very concerned about the son’s decision will be and tells him that the son can make his own decisions.
The son interprets it as Jingxiu not really caring at all, because what the son really wants are for Jingxiu to give him some advice or some indication that the son will be missed if he moves away from home. Surprisingly, the usually prickly Jiazhen is the more nurturing parent in this situation.
“Hachiko” then takes a tragic turn, which won’t be revealed in this review, because some people watching this movie won’t know what happened in real life. It’s enough to say that it’s a bittersweet part of this story about family love and loyalty. The cast members’ performances, as well as directing and screenplay, are perfectly competent but not outstanding. Overall, “Hachiko” is exactly what you might expect from a movie about a beloved family pet and how that family copes with loss and grief.
CMC Pictures released “Hachiko” in select U.S. cinemas on April 14, 2023. The movie was released in China on March 31, 2023.
The following is a press release from Animal Planet:
Puppy Bowl returns for its 19th year on Sunday, February 12, 2023, at 2:00PM ET / 11:00AM/PT, and for the first time will be simulcast across Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, TBS, HBO Max and discovery+ — a rare opportunity for new viewers to experience the original and longest running call-to-adoption TV event. This year’s program will feature Bleacher Report host Taylor Rooks, sports commentator Steve Levy, Egypt Sherrod and Mike Jackson (“Married to Real Estate”), Faruq Tauheed (“Battlebots”), Zak Bagans (“Ghost Adventures”), Alex Guarnaschelli (“Supermarket Stakeout”) along with talent from Discovery Channel’s “Street Outlaws” franchise, New Line Cinema’s upcoming film “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” and some of the biggest sports personalities from Warner Bros. Discovery Sports.
With more puppies and more inspiring adoption stories than ever before, Puppy Bowl XIX will highlight the incredible work of rescue and shelter workers who dedicate their lives to helping animals find their forever homes. Puppy Bowl XIX will feature 122 puppies, 67 shelters and rescues across 34 states — and for the first-time will feature a Native American animal organization and a puppy player from Dominica, West Indies.
Puppy Bowl XIX will start with a pre-game show at 1:00PM ET/ 10:00AM PT to give audiences the inside scoop on the Puppy Bowl draft with exclusive interviews with coaches and players. Audiences will also learn more about each puppy player’s breed mix and other unique traits from Wisdom Panel™ dog DNA test that could help determine which puppy player will have a furry leg-up on the field. The pre-game show will also provide a first-look at the ARM & HAMMER™ SLIDE™ Kitty Halftime Show.
The game kicks off when the PEDIGREE® Starting Lineup players take to the field and as the game progresses, it will be revealed which puppy player has what it takes to be named the BISSELL® MVP (Most Valuable Puppy) or to win the SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC. Underdog Award.
Puppy Bowl referee Dan Schachner returns for his 12th year of overseeing the stumbles & tumbles and calling all the puppy penalties and touchdowns while sportscasters Steve Levy and Taylor Rooks return to provide play-by-play commentary. Audiences will also see the return of Puppy Bowl’s ‘Adoptable Pup’ segments sponsored by PEDIGREE ®. Sprinkled throughout the program, 11 shelters from around the country will feature one of their puppies (and 3 shelters with kittens during KITTY HALF-TIME) that are all up for adoption during the game! Other fan-favorite elements return, including the Puppy Cheer Squad, the coveted water-bowl cam, the slo-mo cam, end zone pylon cameras to catch all the action, in addition to an all-new backstage look at the puppy players’ red-carpet arrivals ahead of the game.
Also returning are the SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC. “Pup Close and Personal” segments that share the back stories of the adorable star athletes. Viewers will meet Cooper, a Boston terrier/ boxer mix from Seattle Humane, who marks the Emerald City’s debut in Puppy Bowl with a visit to the Seattle Seahawks’ Training Camp where Defensive End Shelby Harris coaches Cooper on his signature moves, and Inya, a Chihuahua/ miniature Pinscher mix rescued by the Phoenix-based NAGI Foundation working to restore the sacredness of the Native American community by uniting people and animals. For more “Pup Close and Personal” stories featured in Puppy Bowl XIX, please click HERE.
During the game, audiences will also meet eleven special needs puppy players looking for their forever homes that will include Julius, a hearing-impaired Dalmatian, Marmalade, a sight and hearing-impaired Border Collie/ Australian Cattle Dog; Mykonos, a American Staffordshire Terrier/ Bulldog with a cleft palate, among others.
Official Puppy Bowl XIX sponsors include BISSELL®, WAYFAIR®, ARM & HAMMER™ SLIDE™, NEXGARD®, The PEDIGREE® brand, SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., TEMPTATIONS™, and WISDOM PANEL™ pet DNA test.
Viewers can join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #PuppyBowl and following Animal Planet on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok for the latest updates.
Keep checking PuppyBowl.com for more information on the participating pups and to learn how you join in on the fun.
Puppy Bowl XIX is produced for Animal Planet and discovery+ by Bright Spot Content, an All3Media America company.
About Animal Planet
Animal Planet, one of Discovery, Inc.’s great global brands, is dedicated to creating high quality content with global appeal delivering on its mission to keep the childhood joy and wonder of animals alive by bringing people up close in every way. Available to 360 million homes in more than 205 countries and territories, Animal Planet combines content that explores the undeniable bonds forged between animals and humans, optimized across all screens around the world. For more information, please visit www.animalplanet.com.
Discovery Channel is dedicated to creating the highest quality non-fiction content that informs and entertains its consumers about the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement. The network, which is distributed to 100.8 million U.S. homes, can be seen in 224 countries and territories, offering a signature mix of compelling, high-end production values and vivid cinematography across genres including, science and technology, exploration, adventure, history and in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the people, places and organizations that shape and share our world. For more information, please visit www.discovery.com.
TBS, a Warner Bros. Discovery brand, is a top-rated destination for television among young adults and known for escapist, good-time entertainment, featuring smart, imaginative characters with heart and comedic edge. From unscripted and scripted comedy series to game shows, and animated programming, TBS’ Originals slate is comprised of some of the most popular shows on cable — “AEW: Dynamite,” “American Dad!,” “Miracle Workers,” “Wipeout,” “Friday Night Vibes,” and “The Cube” along with upcoming series “Stupid Pet Tricks”. TBS’ lineup also includes comedy hits like “Young Sheldon” and “The Big Bang Theory,” classic sitcom favorites such as “Friends,” blockbuster movies, and live event coverage of Major League Baseball, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and “ELEAGUE,” Warner Bros. Discovery’s eSports gaming competition. Website: www.tbs.com
About HBO Max
HBO Max™ is a streaming platform that offers best in class quality entertainment, delivering the greatest array of series, movies, and specials from the iconic brands of HBO, Warner Bros., and DC, as well as Max Originals and blockbuster films. The platform launched in the United States in May 2020 and introduced a lower priced, advertising-supported tier in June 2021. Currently available in 61 countries, HBO Max began its global rollout launching in markets across Latin America and the Caribbean in 2021, followed by European launches in the Nordics, Iberia, the Netherlands and Central and Eastern Europe.
discovery+ is the definitive non-fiction, real life subscription streaming service from Warner Bros. Discovery. With the largest-ever content offering at launch, discovery+ features a wide range of exclusive, original series across popular passion verticals including lifestyle and relationships; home and food; true crime; paranormal; adventure and natural history; as well as science, tech and the environment, and a slate of high-quality documentaries. For more, visit discoveryplus.com, or find the discovery+ app on most mobile and connected TV devices.
About WBD Sports
WBD Sports is a global leader in premium sports content across all platforms, engaging fans in more than 200 markets and in over 20 languages. The WBD Sports U.S. portfolio includes multi-platform partnerships with the National Basketball Association (“NBA”), Major League Baseball (“MLB”), National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”), National Hockey League (“NHL”) and United States Soccer Federation (“USSF”). WBD Sports Europe features Eurosport, the leading sport destination and the Home of the Olympic Games in Europe, as well as Global Cycling Network (GCN), Global Mountain Bike Network (GMBN) and Golf Digest. In 2022, Eurosport UK combined with BT Sport to create an extensive collection of live sports coverage for fans in the UK and Ireland.
WBD Sports’ owned-and-operated platforms include Bleacher Report – the #1 digital destination for young sports fans, reaching more than 175 million users each month – Eurosport.com, Europe’s #1 online sports news website, House of Highlights, HighlightHER and a full suite of digital and social brands. TNT Sports is WBD’s sports content brand in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico. Several regional sports networks, serving fans live sports in each of the respective U.S. markets, are also owned and/or operated by WBD Sports in the U.S.
A bouncy, crowd-pleasing French Bulldog, Winston, was declared Best in Show at Philadelphia’s prestigious National Dog Show Presented by Purina, emerging victorious before a raucous Thanksgiving Day crowd and national TV audience on NBC.
The #1-ranked all-breed canine in America, Winston spent his puppyhood being raised by Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Morgan Fox, who is part of the ownership group. Winston now has 78 Best in Shows in his career, was the #1-ranked dog in the Non-Sporting Group last year and won Reserve Best in Show (second place) at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York this past June. Perry Payson of Bixby, Okla., guided Winston to the big win as handler and is also the breeder and a member of the ownership group. Winston’s registered name is GCHP Fox Canyon’s I Won The War at Goldshield.
“He’s a showdog with personality and beauty and a perfect fit for the breed,” said Best in Show judge Vicki Seiler-Cushman of Xenia, Ohio. “He has a razzle dazzle that says ‘I’m here to win tonight.’ You can just tell that he can also go home and be the perfect pet.”
“I get excited every time and so does Winston,” Payson said about the Best in Show stage in which just seven dogs compete for the ultimate title. “The National Dog Show in Philadelphia with the television exposure on Thanksgiving Day is obviously special. We’ve had a lot of support and that’s what happens with a dog of this quality.” Payson had a crowd-pleasing response to the victory, lifting his charge into the air in celebration as the announcement was made. Winston and Payson choose Purina Pro Plan as their nutrition of choice.
Coverage of the show and Winston’s triumphant moments were broadcast to a holiday audience on NBC following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year marks the 21st anniversary of the holiday special, which has become a family viewing tradition since its inception in 2002. NBC will an encore presentation of the two-hour special on Saturday, Nov. 26 from 8-10 p.m. ET/PT (7 PM CT/MT).
Reserve Best in Show (second place) went to an English Toy Spaniel named Cooper and handler Christopher Keith of Dallas, TX. Winner of the Toy Group, Cooper’s registered name is GCCH Ringo Star OT Nevskoop Hobbita.
The following are the other 2022 National Dog Show Group Winners:
• Sporting – an Irish Water Spaniel named “Sloane” of Hamden, CT • Working Group – an Alaskan Malamute named “Reus – the Italian Stallion.” originally from Palermo, Italy and now a resident of Wisconsin • Terrier Group – a American Staffordshire Terrier named “Trouble” of St. Augustine, Florida • Hound Group – a Treeing Walker Coonhound named “Nate” of Somerset, KY • Herding – a German Shepherd named “River” of Woodstock, GA
The following is a press release from First Run Features:
Millions of rescue dogs from the rural South have been transported to new homes thanks to the tireless efforts of a vast, grassroots network of dog rescuers. “Free Puppies!” is the true story of where those dogs come from and how a group of feisty and intrepid women rescuers are working together to save them.
Although transports have moved dogs from the South for decades, when Hurricane Katrina left more than 250,000 pets stranded, the infrastructure of modern pet transport for a nation-wide dog rescue effort was born. Since then, individual volunteers, transporters, shelters and rescue groups have created a movement to place millions of southern dogs in areas of the country with high demand for adoption but low supply.
By following a group of women dog rescuers from Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, “Free Puppies!” reveals the challenges that contribute to the rescue dog crisis in the first place. These women not only save dogs from euthanasia, but also organize affordable and accessible spay and neuter, reform local ordinances, advocate for humane education, and fight urgent and complex challenges facing underserved areas of the rural South. The film includes interviews with the ASPCA, Atlanta Humane Society, McKamey Animal Center, My Kids Have Paws Veterinary Clinic, Dixie Day Spay, and dozens of rescue organizations, shelter directors, healthcare providers, and local officials.
“Free Puppies!,” a film by Samantha Wishman and Christina Thomas opens August 12, 2022, in live cinemas.
70 minutes | Color | English
Samantha Wishman – Director, Producer, Editor
Christina Thomas – Director, Co-Producer, Editor
Muffie Meyer – Story Editor
Carter McCormick – Director of Photography Eliot Popko – Director of Photography
Joey McCormick and Willard Hamilton – Original Music
“The American Rescue Dog Show” is the preeminent dog competition featuring rescued companions as they strut their fluff, competing for a slew of “best in” titles while stealing America’s hearts. These prized pups may be cute, but the competition is fierce. In the two-hour special, rescued dogs from all across the country will compete in seven categories including Best In Underbite, Best In Snoring, Best In Belly Rubs and more. A $10,000 donation to a local animal welfare organization will be made in honor of the winning dog in each category, and each category winner will have the chance to be named the Best In Rescue with an additional $100,000 donation being made in their honor. This comedic and heartfelt take on the world of competitive dog shows is a celebration of rescued dogs and the joy they bring to our lives. Dynamic duo Rob Riggle and Joe Tessitore host America’s cutest competition special with ESPN’s Monica McNutt serving as sideline correspondent. Dog-loving celebrity guest judges, who will be announced at a later date, will also make special appearances.
“The American Rescue Dog Show” was created by Michael Levitt and Jennifer Schulz. Michael Levitt, Charles Wachter, Jill Goularte and Jennifer Schulz serve as executive producers.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Montana and the West Coast of the United States, the comedy/drama “Dog” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: In exchange for a job recommendation from an ex-boss, a former Army Ranger agrees to take an unruly Belgian Malinois named Lulu, who has been hailed as a war hero, to the funeral of the Army sergeant who was her handler.
Culture Audience: “Dog” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of star Channing Tatum and anyone who likes “rowdy dog” movies, no matter how dull and cliché they are.
“Dog” can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a wacky comedy or a sentimental drama. Either way, it’s a dull misfire. The movie’s star dog literally takes a back seat to stupid antics from humans. Considering how irritating so many of the human characters are in the movie, it would have been a welcome improvement to give more screen time to the dog. In addition, “Dog” is completely irresponsible in showing legal issues of how people should handle problematic dogs that were trained to attack and kill.
“Dog” is one of those films where the funniest scenes are already in the movie’s trailer. And they’re not very funny, because the concept of an exasperated person who’s stuck taking care of an unruly dog has been done so much better in other movies. In addition, “Dog” is a road trip movie that rehashes the same old stereotypes of “mismatched duos” who are forced to go on the road together. And yes, one of the movie’s numerous clichés is a car breaking down during a crucial part of the road trip.
Channing Tatum stars in “Dog,” his feature-film directorial debut, which he co-directed with Reid Carolin, who wrote the “Dog” screenplay. In the movie, Tatum plays Jackson Briggs (who likes to be called by his last name), a down-on-his-luck former U.S. Army Ranger, who wants to get back into some type of government protection job. Instead, Briggs is living in Montana and working at a low-paying, behind-the-counter job at a deli. Briggs lives alone and is divorced. His ex-wife Niki (played by Q’orianka Kilcher) and their 3-year-old daughter (played by identical twins Jacqueline Seaman and Francine Seaman) live in Arizona.
The biggest obstacle to Briggs getting his dream job is that he has a history of brain injuries. Briggs has applied for a diplomatic security job at a company called Black Canopy Global Security. This job application won’t be considered unless he gets a full medical exam certified by his former commanding officer. The movie has some repetitive scenes of Briggs persistently calling Black Canopy Global Security to find out what he has to do to make it to the next level of this job application process.
Briggs has been told repeatedly that even though he has completed the medical exam with a doctor’s approval, he still needs to have his former commanding officer sign off on the exam. During one of these phone calls, Briggs finds out that the applications have a yearly rotation (people can only apply once a year), and this year’s rotation closes on the following Wednesday. “I can’t wait until next year’s rotation!” Briggs exclaims. “You’ll be hearing from me.”
Meanwhile, Briggs gets some bad news: A former Army buddy named Sgt. Riley Rodriguez (played by Eric Urbiztondo, seen only in photos) has died in a single-car crash, when Riley’s car rammed into a tree. Was it an accident or a suicide? The answer is revealed in the movie. And it’s exactly what you think it is.
Briggs goes to his former work base Fort Lewis in Joint Base Lewis–McChord in Washington state for the memorial. He meets up with some of his former Army buddies at a bar, but he feels slightly out of place because he’s the only one at this gathering who’s not in the military. They talk about Riley and the good times they had with him.
While he’s in the area, Briggs visits his former commanding officer at Fort Lewis. He almost doesn’t get in because his employee pass has expired, and the Fort Lewis MP (played by Devin White) at the gate won’t let him through the gate. Briggs acts hostile and defensive, even though the MP is just doing his job. It’s the first sign that Briggs can be an entitled jerk.
But luckily, right at that moment, Briggs’ former commanding officer Captain Luke Jones (played by Luke Forbes) drives up and tells the MP at the gate that it’s okay to give Briggs access. Briggs then drives through the gate while giving the MP a smug grin. This gatekeeping scenario is repeated again in other parts of the movie, with Briggs reacting in obnoxious ways to the guard at the gate, such has giving him the middle finger and cursing at him. Briggs is so immature, you almost expect him to stick out his tongue like a bratty child during these interactions.
When Briggs explains to Captain Jones that he needs him to certify Briggs’ medical exam for this security job application, Captain Jones initially refuses and asks sarcastically if Briggs paid a bribe to get a doctor clearance on a medical exam. However, Captain Jones changes his mind when he tells Briggs that he needs someone to transport Riley’s combat dog—a Belgian Malinois named Lulu—to Riley’s home state of Arizona to attend Riley’s funeral. After that, the dog will undergo euthanasia, because Lulu has been deemed unfit for adoption.
Captain Jones says that if Briggs can get Lulu to the funeral and back to Fort Lewis with no mishaps, then he will certify the medical exam for Briggs’ job application. The trip has to be done by car, because Lulu is too dangerous to take on public transportation. Captain Jones warns Briggs: “Lulu is not the same dog you served with. She’s got every combat trigger in the book.”
A montage at the beginning of the movie shows that Lulu was born on August 12, 2014. She was adopted at 5 months old by the Fort Lewis 75th Ranger Regiment. She served with Riley in the Afghanistan War. Lulu is considered too hard to handle because she has the canine version of post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s easily agitated and might attack if she’s “triggered.” (Three dogs actually play Lulu in the movie. Their names are Zuza, Britta and Lana 5.)
Lulu often has to wear a muzzle because of how unpredictable she is with her attacks. Briggs finds out the hard way when he sees Lulu for the first time in years. And she immediately knocks him down during an attack. Captain Jones and the kennel master (played by Trent McDonald) just laugh at this spectacle. Expect to see more “out-of-control attacking dog” scenes that wouldn’t be funny at all in real life.
As so, off Briggs and Lulu go on this road trip in his 1984 Ford Bronco. Briggs is told the dog can only wear the muzzle for two hours at a time, or else she’ll get overheated. Briggs starts his road trip with Lulu on a Wednesday. The funeral is four days later, on a Sunday. His job application is due the following Wednesday. Therefore, “Dog” is not only a road trip movie, but it’s also a “race against time” movie. But you wouldn’t know it by how this movie drags and lumbers along with distractions that would take up valuable hours in real time.
Early on in the road trip, Briggs stops at a shooting range to spend time there for fun. When he comes back to his Bronco, he finds that Lulu has broken out of her carrier and chewed up the upholstery seating. “You’re just a demon!” he yells at Lulu, before he drugs her so that she’ll go to sleep. Briggs openly laughs that he can make this dog unconscious whenever he wants. Yes, this movie tries to make a pathetic joke out of a dog being drugged to unconsciousness.
It should come as no surprise that at some point in the movie, Briggs doesn’t bother putting the muzzle on her. That’s because there are many scenes contrived so that Lulu’s agitated barking causes unwanted attention, with Briggs acting mortified, while some unrealistic slapstick comedy scenario ensues. These scenarios have no imagination and are actually not very amusing.
One of the stops on the Briggs Buffoonery Tour is Portland, Oregon. The filmmakers of “Dog” must have some type of grudge against Portland, because there’s a big chunk of the movie that shows open disdain for Portland residents. Everyone in Portland is depicted as progressive liberal hipsters, weirdos or aging hippies who automatically dislike/distrust people with a military background. It’s an over-the-top portrayal that’s supposed to be funny, but it just comes across as lazy and unrealistic stereotyping. Portland is a lot more diverse than the narrow-minded, warped way that the city’s residents are depicted in “Dog.”
On his first night in Portland, Briggs goes to a bar to find any woman who wants to have sex with him. The bartender (played by Luke Jones) announces to Briggs that they only serve organic beer. While waiting in line to use the restroom, Briggs is pestered by a guy (played by Cole Walliser) babbling to him about technology and virtual gifts. And then, Briggs meets a succession of women who don’t have regular conversations with him. They give sanctimonious lectures spouting their political views to let him know how “woke” they are.
One woman named Sonia (played by Tory Freeth) says she likes country music but has a problem with how country music celebrates “toxic masculinity.” Did she forget that there are plenty of successful female country artists? Another woman named Natalie (played by Skyler Joy) scolds Briggs after she find out he’s an Afghanistan War veteran: “Did you realize you were just a pawn for Big Oil? Just body bags carrying out ecological genocide for the corporate elite?” Another woman named Tara (Patricia Isaac) says she’d like to meet any man who doesn’t have a “white savior complex.”
Briggs leaves the bar in disgust at all the politically correct people he met there. In the parked truck, he tells Lulu, “We’ve got to get out of here, because you’re the only woman in this entire city that I’d like to have a conversation with.” But just then, Briggs thinks he’s going to get lucky with two women who approach him in the parking lot because they see Lulu in his truck. The women—whose names are Bella (played by Emmy Raver-Lampman) and Zoe (played by Nicole LaLiberte)—live together and have Shih Tzus with them, so they all talk about their dogs. Bella and Zoe, who describes themselves as “tantric healers,” invite Briggs back to their house, for what he’s sure will be a sexual threesome.
Bella, Zoe and Briggs start to get touch-feely at the house, and his shirt comes off. Lulu doesn’t like being cooped up in the truck, of course. She starts barking loudly while the Bronco is parked out on the street, in front of Bella and Zoe’s house. A nosy next-door neighbor named Brad (played by Timothy Eulich) comes out of his house and gets angry—not at Lulu, but at Briggs for keeping the dog in the car. Brad yells that the dog is an “abused animal” and continues his rant by saying, “Animals are people too!”
A shirtless Briggs runs outside to see what all the commotion is about, and he sees that Brad has a rock in his hand. Briggs tells Brad to put down the rock, but an incensed Brad calls Briggs a “redneck,” even though Brad knows nothing about Briggs. And then, Brad throws the rock at the back window to smash it and so Lulu can jump out of the car. (And apparently, with “concerned animal lover” Brad not caring if the shattered glass could injure the dog.)
After the entire back window is broken, Lulu jumps out and tears off part of Brad’s jacket before he quickly runs back into his house. Bella and Zoe, who witnessed all this chaos, are so turned off by this violence, they don’t want anything to do with Briggs. Briggs has a hissy fit while he puts Lulu back in the car again. He yells at Lulu: “You ruined an epic threesome!” And then he shouts at her: “Bitch!” Yes, the movie is that idiotic.
Briggs finds himself in more ridiculous scenarios. In one sequence, Lulu runs away in a wooded area, with Briggs giving chase on foot. He ends up in a marijuana greenhouse owned by a hippie-ish married couple named Gus (played by Kevin Nash) and Tamara (played by Jane Adams), who’s another “cosmic” type who likes to talk about karma and energy. It’s one of the worst parts of the movie because of how mindless and unfunny it is. (Hint: A tranquilizer gun and a kidnapping are involved in this scenario.)
More of Briggs’ asinine antics continue. Another low point in the movie is in San Francisco, where he pretends to be a blind military veteran so he can get a free room at a luxury hotel. What happens in the hotel is partially shown in the trailer for “Dog.” But there’s a tone-deaf scenario in the movie where Briggs is accused of being a racist after Lulu attacks a man wearing Muslim garb in the hotel lobby, because she was trained to attack men wearing Muslim garb in the Afghanistan War.
Unrealistically, Briggs is arrested for a hate crime, when he should have been arrested for negligent handling of an animal. As shown in the movie’s trailer, Lulu’s rampage also “outed” Briggs for not being blind, as he claimed he was, so he’s also arrested for fraud. Needless to say, there’s more time wasted as Briggs is locked up in jail.
The man who was attacked is named Dr. Al-Farid (played by Junes Zahdi), who has to decide whether or not he’ll press charges against Briggs. Because this movie is so sloppily written, it never addresses how the hotel wants to handle the fraud charges. It also never shows what would happen in real life: The dog would be taken away to a city animal shelter and undergo euthanasia because it viciously attacked a human being who did not provoke the dog.
But there would be no “Dog” movie in all of its awfulness if the movie tried to be realistic. Briggs’ version of “dog therapy” is to show Lulu videos of herself fighting in a combat zone. (Briggs gets the videos from an I Love Me scrapbook that Riley made for Lulu.) Not only does Briggs stupidly reinforce anti-social behavior for the dog, but he also rewards the dog for it with treats, like she’s a child who needs to just be parked in front of a TV and given snacks while watching violent videos of herself. It’s so heinous and absolutely the wrong way to teach a dog how to un-learn violent training.
After a lot of pathetic attempts to be a zany comedy, the movie takes an abrupt turn into sappiness that’s supposed to be tearjerking but comes across as cynical and calculated. It’s all very unearned. People who know how long it takes for a problematic dog to un-learn any dangerous training will be rolling their eyes at the ending of the movie. Lulu’s personality transformation in less than a week is very unreal.
There’s a scene where Briggs meets a man named Noah (played by Ethan Suplee), and it’s enough to say that no expert “dog whisperer”/dog trainer in the world would be able to accomplish what Noah does in less than an hour. This dog would’ve been permanently taken away from Briggs after his arrest in San Francisco. An incompetent character like Briggs makes things worse, but the movie lets him off the hook too easily. The redemption arc that’s rushed in at the end of the movie is extremely phony.
There’s not much to say about the acting in this movie except that most of it ranges from adequate to not very impressive. The movie’s editing, tone and pacing are all very uneven. The horrendous screenplay has too many plot holes and unrealistic scenarios that give misleading depictions of how military combat dogs are handled. And a big takeaway from “Dog” is that Tatum has the dubious distinction of co-directing himself in a movie where a dog has a better personality and more intelligence than the character he plays in the movie.
Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures will release “Dog” in U.S. cinemas on February 18, 2022.