Dog Gone review

Dog Gone isn’t a perfect movie, but like a skilled harpist, it delicately plucks along at all the intended emotional heartstrings for a rewarding feel-good movie.

It’s hard to screw up a movie about a family trying to find its long-lost dog. The lump in your throat and questions about someone cutting onions moments are there for the taking and Dog Gone dutifully picks them up like a game of fetch.

The film is very loosely based on a true story. Screenwriter Nick Santora adapted Pauls Toutonghi’s novel.

Facing a directionless post-college future, Fielding (Johnny Berchtold) decides to do what any pending graduate would do — he adopts a dog at an animal shelter — and names him Gonker.

dog gone review - gronker and fielding
Dog Gone. Johnny Berchtold as Fielding in Dog Gone. Cr. Bob Mahoney/Netflix © 2022.

Naturally, his parents John (Rob Lowe) and Ginny (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) are against the idea since Fielding can barely take care of himself let alone a dog.

That’s quickly proven correct as Fielding sleeps through his graduation ceremony. At least there’s plenty of time for John and Ginny to bond with the new family member since Fielding doesn’t have a job or career lined up now that’s graduated.

It doesn’t take long for John and Ginny to fall victim to Gonker’s charms though John still is bothered by Fielding’s lack of direction and purpose. Maybe it’s time to start charging rent?

For much of the movie Fielding doesn’t come off great and it’s much easier to take John’s side.

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Fielding is a slacker who’s irresponsible and oblivious to basic things like the need to get Gronker examined by a veterinarian before he starts acting sluggish. Turns out Gronker has a potentially fatal disease if he doesn’t receive an injection every 30 days.

That’s not a problem until Fielding and his pal, Nate (Nick Piene), take Gronker for a walk on the Appalachian Trail only for him to run off after a fox.

Unlike previous times, Gronker doesn’t eventually return to Fielding. After a fruitless night of searching, Fielding tells John and Ginny, who launch into rescue mode.

dog gone review - kimberly williams-paisley

For Ginny, finding Gronker is doubly personal as she reflects on her own dog when she was a young girl. Terrified that Gronker will suffer the same fate, Ginny leads the home base operation while John and Fielding start searching the trail. 

In a fun running joke, the self-described analog Ginny becomes impressively tech savvy complete with various Twitter accounts to help spread the word of Gronker. 

Lowe and Williams-Paisley initially have to handle the heavy lifting performances. Williams-Paisley (Father of the Bride) is ideally suited for these low-stakes, heavy on emotion roles as she brings a welcome sweet wholesomeness to her roles without being cheesy. Lowe offers one of his more earnest and charming performances as the well-meaning father who finally gets a chance to see his son without judgement. 

Berchtold has to overcome the early rough writing for Fielding and succeeds thanks to a better second-half arc. 

dog gone review - fielding, gronker, ginny and john

Director Stephen Herek (Mr. Holland’s Opus) keeps the film moving at a steady pace. There are a few scenes that veer slightly silly like when John and Fielding try to smuggle a search dog into a hotel with a no pets policy. For the most part, the film plays out as expected although there is one subplot that offers some intrigue and a twist late in the film. 

Ultimately, you know how Dog Gone ends. It wouldn’t be a feel-good film if it had a shaky ending, but in this instance the fun is in the journey and it’s a pleasant experience throughout. 

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: Netflix

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