‘Dog Gone’ Exploits Your Love of Dogs with Minimum Effort

Dog Gone, a 2023 Netflix original film, stars Rob Lowe, John Berchtold, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley, tells the story of a college kid named Feilding, who graduates and comes home with a huge lovable dog named Gonker.  This kid is irresponsible, has no plans for the future, and seems to be content with living off of his parents for as long as he can. 

This is supposed to be the protagonist of the story, mind you, so already I was having major issues sympathizing with him because, one, Feilding is infuriatingly entitled and, two, he is written so poorly I swear he is the walking caricature of what boomers think college does to young people.  

At one point, for example, Rob Lowe’s character, the dad, is concerned that the dog will escape the yard and get lost so he fits Gonker with a shock collar.  I don’t like shock collars, personally, but I can at least understand where the dad is coming from.  When the collar fails to keep Gonker from running off, Feilding actually screams out, “Thatta boy, Gonker!  Fight the power!”  That’s Feilding’s personality. 

The dog is a free spirit, maaaaaa, and he should run free, maaaaan.

Spoiler alert:  The dog runs away and gets lost and Feilding and his family spend the entire movie looking for the dog because this kid is an irresponsible goon.

Honestly, this is the story point I couldn’t get past.  Rob Lowe’s dad character is almost perfectly wholesome during the entire film while John Berchtold’s character is whiny and privileged.  Sure, this is to allow for Fielding’s predictable character growth, but I could never get over the fact that Gonker getting loose and running away was his fault to begin with.  You wouldn’t root for a negligent mother if her kids got lost while she was having a smoke break, why should I root for a negligent dog owner?

That being said, I didn’t hate this movie.  I don’t really think that this movie is worthy of any level of hatred.  Dog Gone is a middling film.  It’s neither good nor bad, neither brilliant or stupid.  It is a movie that exists to elicit emotions and exploit our love of dogs.  There are movies that have done it better, there are movies that have done it worse.

I think that this movie made a mistake in focusing exclusively on the humans hunting the dog when it should have checked in every once in a while with the dog’s plight, but the film choses to take Gonker out of the movie all together when he gets lost and I found that to be a creative mistake because this film could have used one genuine character.

The Incredible Journey this ain’t, but I do have to give it proper due for being wholesome.  I think that Dog Gone had its heart in the right place, but the execution was mid at best.  What we end up with is a story about loving a dog that could have used a lot more dog.  As it is, this is a movie that is quickly disappearing from my memory and, in a month, I probably won’t remember seeing it at all.  I’ll come across this review on Youtube and be completely surprised like that guy in Memento… but I’m not getting a tattoo of Gonker to remember him.

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