Channing Tatum took a big chance naming his debut film as a director Dog, because there was a real possibility that it would be just that (you can just picture the puns). Fortunately, the gamble paid off. Tatum’s new film, although not without its shortcomings, is a delightful dramatic comedy that resists the expected Hollywood tugging of heartstrings.

The story follows a discharged US Army Ranger, Jackson Briggs (Tatum), who is tasked with escorting a military service dog, Lulu, to the funeral of her fallen commander. Suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, Lulu is vicious, dangerous and destined to be put down.

From that very basic premise, Dog unfolds as a road trip, whereby the two war heroes bond and rescue each other from the brink of despair.

With his Magic Mike screenwriter, Reid Carolin, in the co-director’s chair, Tatum has wisely chosen a formulaic story to fine-tune his directorial skills. As is the nature of road trip movies, the narrative is episodic and has the two characters hop, skip and jump from one encounter to another (to varying effect), and the structure is such that we can imagine the shooting schedule to be as foolproof as possible.

Amongst the people who cross Jackson and Lulu’s path along the way are woke hipsters in Portland, bisexual tantric healers, old pot-smoking hippies and a d–head cop with a complex (played by comedian Bill Burr).

It’s collectively silly stuff that doesn’t serve the story well at all, and although Tatum and Carolin are attempting to unravel a stream of PTSD consciousness, those themes are evidently better explored in the personal moments between Jackson and Lulu. With that said, their one visit with Lulu’s former dog trainer (played by Ethan Suplee) does give their story enough gravitas to see them through to the end.

With those aforementioned foibles aside, credit must be given to Tatum and Carolin, whose working relationship spans across at least eight projects. Dog is their first foray into the world of directing and having recently produced the HBO documentary War Dog: A Soldier’s Best Friend, it’s clearly a subject they are passionate about.

For all intents and purposes they strike the right chord, and their ability to elicit such a sincere performance from their canine stars is impressive (three dogs were used to portray Lulu, with one in particular – named Britta – being featured for 80 per cent of the screen time).

Dog is likely to be a crowd-pleaser. It’s a family-friendly (with a modest advisory warning) dramedy with a lot of heart, and those who approach “dog movies” with a certain amount of trepidation can rest assured that tissues are not required.