“Dog Gone” is a new Netflix movie that is based on the true story of a golden retriever mix that walked more than 100 miles to find his way home. Gonker, the beloved dog, initially made headlines when Fielding Marshall set out on a desperate search to save his pet — who had a deadly disease that required timely medication.
Gonker’s real-life story was dramatic and inspiring enough to be recounted years later in a book, titled Dog Gone: A Lost Pet’s Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home. The book received mostly positive reviews. Unfortunately, the version that was adapted for the screen by writer Nick Santora (“Reacher”) likely won’t prove as lucky.
Despite the intriguing source material, it is unclear what the actual point of the Netflix movie “Dog Gone” is supposed to be. The various movie descriptions reflect the cinematic confusion.
According to one Netflix description, “Dog Gone” is “[b]ased on an incredible true story of humanity and everyday heroism.”
On IMDB, “Dog Gone” is instead “[b]ased on the true story of a father and son who repair their fractured relationship during a forced hike of the Appalachian trail to find their beloved lost dog.”
On Twitter, the streaming service describes “Dog Gone” as a “grand adventure to bring Gonker home.” The tweet also includes a bizarre “PSA”: “‘Dog Gone,’ out January 13, isn’t about whether Gonker lives of [sic] dies (he lives) — it’s about the unique ability dogs have to bring out the very best in every person they meet.”
When the family dog goes missing, a father and son embark on a grand adventure to bring Gonker home.
PSA: Dog Gone, out January 13, isn’t about whether Gonker lives of dies (he lives) — it’s about the unique ability dogs have to bring out the very best in every person they meet. pic.twitter.com/5j8QzqXxTI
— Netflix (@netflix) December 13, 2022
The descriptions certainly suggest that at least action and emotion should be at the center of “Dog Gone.” But the drawn-out and jumbled movie fails to deliver. There isn’t even a palpable sense of urgency for the viewer when it is made abundantly clear that Gonker’s life is on the line after he runs off into the woods.
There are no particular offenses when it comes to Stephen Herek’s (“Mr. Holland’s Opus”) direction or the lead cast’s (Rob Lowe, Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Johnny Berchtold) performances. The problems are an uneventful and slow plot, shallow dialogue, and cardboard bit characters.
“Dog Gone” may be aimed at families and pet owners/dog lovers (obviously), but it also flirts with a presumed Christian audience. Viewers are hit with a kind of mini-sermon as father and son begin their “grand adventure.” But instead of pulling on heartstrings or stirring the conscience, this scene might have viewers rolling their eyes.
In some aspects “Dog Gone” is heartwarming, trumpeting family bonds and faith to overcome adversity. But ultimately, the film falls flat. It’s clear Santora lost the plot while writing “Dog Gone,” and apparently St. Anthony couldn’t help him recover it. The “Dog Gone” movie simply has no soul.
You can watch “Dog Gone” on Netflix beginning January 13.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated.