Channing Tatum, wrapped in a silk kimono, sucks on a weed lollipop. The scene is a perfect distillation of the actor’s appeal: goofy, flirtatious, manly but never macho. Those qualities are expertly drawn out in this charming comedy-drama, in which Tatum stars and co-directs with Magic Mike writer Reid Carolin.
Tatum’s Briggs, an ex-soldier, must drive his recently deceased army buddy’s angsty military dog, Lulu, from Washington to Arizona for her owner’s funeral. Both man and canine have PTSD, and the unlikely odd couple bare their teeth at one another, before their relationship softens. Their journey plays out like a classic romcom, complete with a fun riff on the “race to the airport” ending that has become a cliche of the genre.
What’s more surprising than watching Tatum share a bath with a Belgian malinois is the message nestled among the film’s sillier capers. In Portland, Briggs is subjected to smug liberals who make unfair assumptions about his “toxic masculinity” and complicity in “ecological warfare”. In San Francisco he is forced to confront his own prejudices when a drug addict – and former war veteran – breaks into his car. Tatum and Carolin cleverly use the road trip as a mechanism for a conversation about gentleness, connection and how to heal America’s political divides. The enemy’s bark is worse than its bite.