TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — As innocuous and sweet as a puppy dog gaze, "Dog Gone" hits the minimum requirements for a decent doggy drama and makes no effort to be anything more.
The drama, which releases on Netflix Friday, is the story of a distanced father and son bonding as they search for their lost dog, who ran off in the wilderness.
Johnny Berchtold plays Fielding, an insecure and aimless young man who feels lost in the world. He finds kinship and appreciation in Gonker, a golden retriever mix with spunk and personality who joins him for yoga and fetch. The dog forges a fragile bond with his well-meaning but condescending father, John (Rob Lowe), who is disappointed with Fielding's unwillingness to start a career.
During a trip on the Appalachian Trail, Gonker runs off. Because he's afflicted with an adrenal deficiency, Gonker will die within two weeks unless he gets his medication. John and Fielding begin an obsessive quest to find Gonker. They're not only trying to save the dog, but their frayed relationship as well.
The film is based on the 2016 Pauls Toutonghi book "Dog Gone: A Lost Pet's Extraordinary Journey and the Family That Brought Him Home," which tells the true 1998 story of the hunt for Gonker.
Director Stephen Herek plays it safe, letting the urgency of the story speak for itself while leaning hard on the father-son conflict. But all of the conflict feels a bit surface and artificial. A harder edge and tougher read on the material might have conjured more of an emotional connection.
As it stands, "Dog Gone" is a sweet film that manages to avoid overwhelming sappiness. It won't stick with you long, but you can pat the film on the head and send it on its way.
RATING: 2.5 stars out of 4
This review was originally reported by Phil Villarreal on kgun.com.