Dog Gone (2023) Movie Review – A simple feel-good drama but a misguided adaptation

A simple feel-good drama but a misguided adaptation

Everybody loves dog movies, that’s a given. Dogs are some of the most lovable protagonists around and so easy to root for. Dog Gone leans into this idea, giving us a simple and predictable but wholesome tale about a boy named Fielding Marshall and his adorable dog named Gonker.

Loosely based on a true story, the film revolves around the two of them and Fielding’s parents, John and Ginny. When Gonker goes missing one day, the Marshalls do everything they can to find him. Ginny takes charge of spreading the word from home while Fielding and John set out to search for him across the Appalachian Trail.  This also gives Fielding and his father the chance to bond and work on their fractured relationship.

Dog Gone is a decent family drama that is designed to make you feel good. They set it up well so that when Gonker does go missing, the urgency feels real. The Marshall’s love for their dog shines through. The overwhelming response of aid from ordinary people is a touch heartwarming too. But ultimately, the story is a simple one that never really goes into nuances or complexities.

The film doesn’t think or feel any harder than it has to. The father-son relationship arc is predictable and surface-level at best. Fielding gets unexplained stomach aches but the extended mystery doesn’t amount to much in the end. An entire segment looks at Ginny’s childhood experience with a dog of her own.

But the flashbacks are oddly tinted and tonally different from the rest of the story. While they were trying to make a point about Ginny’s mounting fears and stress, the overall impact is underwhelming. If you’re looking for an easy watch that will make you smile then this is your pick. If you’re looking for something thought-provoking, keep browsing.

Despite that, Rob Lowe stands out as John Marshall. While his character holds the family upright, Lowe’s performance centres the film and makes it an enjoyable watch. Johnny Berchtold does a great job as Fielding too, offering an authentic portrayal of feeling lost and misunderstood.

The thing about true stories though is that they are inarguably realistic. Which means they don’t come with a three-act structure or predictable relationship arcs or convenient side characters that force a father to finally understand his son. Real stories are messy and uneven and closure isn’t a given.

Dog Gone is a perfectly nice family film. But it’s also clear that the makers have taken only the very basics of the real incident to make a standard family drama that doesn’t go any deeper than it has to. Meanwhile, the real story is a lot more raw and intense. The real Fielding was an older man who lost his baby girl and his partner left soon after. To cope with the grief, he adopted Gonker who ended up becoming his best friend.

As a result, he was also much older when he and his father went on their big search. Personally, I’m a lot more interested in the reconnection of a man with his father than that of a wayward young boy (come on, that story’s been said and done).

There was so much real complexity and profundity in the real thing but the Netflix adaptation is just a feel good film about a dog. There’s nothing wrong with those kinds of movies in general but maybe, if you’re adapting a real-life story, don’t cut out the thing that makes it truly significant.


Read More: Dog Gone Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 6.5/10

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