Rob Lowe as John in "Dog Gone."

Rob Lowe as John in "Dog Gone." Credit: Netflix/Bob Mahoney

MOVIE "Dog Gone"

WHERE Streaming on Netflix

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Kudos to the makers of "Dog Gone" for coming up with a title that tells you everything there is to know about the movie in two words. There's no ambiguity here: one of the cuter of all movie dogs takes off on the Appalachian Trail and his human owners launch a full-court press to find him.

The picture stars Johnny Berchtold (just seen on stage in the Long Island-set "Camp Siegfried") as Fielding Marshall, a recent college graduate who has not figured out anything about the next stage of his life except that he loves his brand-new rescue dog, Gonker.

So Fielding moves back home with Gonker, concerned dad John (Rob Lowe), who just wishes his son would get his act together and stop doing weird breathing exercises with his dog before 6 a.m., and his far more understanding mom Ginny (Kimberly Williams-Paisley).

One day, Fielding, his best human pal and Gonker go for a stroll on the trail, where the off-leash dog sprints after a fox and disappears. Adding urgency to the sprawling search that develops: Gonker has been diagnosed with Addison's disease and requires a shot every 30 days.

The veteran Stephen Herek ("Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure") directs this adaptation of the book "Dog Gone: A Lost Pet's Extraordinary Journey and the Family Who Brought Him Home."

MY SAY This movie could have gone in three possible directions, two of which would have been interesting. But the filmmakers chose the third.

First of all, the title of the source material tells you everything you need to know about Gonker's time in the woods. A genuinely radical and interesting movie might have followed him on his journey home. How did he survive? Where did he go? Other than the rare cutaway, we don't know.

Then there's the fact that the community rallies around the Marshall family to help find Gonker. This includes a group of bikers that the Marshalls meet on the trail; a local journalist; random hikers and more. That's a genuinely feel-good story. But we're shown almost none of these larger efforts.

Instead, the focus sits on Fielding and John, as they work out their difficult relationship while tracking down the dog. It's the most boring possible way to go here, focusing on the inane interactions of two completely uninteresting people while much more compelling stuff happens just outside their purview. Lowe, particularly, looks so indifferent to the whole project, you'd swear he's about to fall asleep in the middle of a scene.

The powers-that-be at Netflix know what they're doing. "Dog Gone" perfectly aligns with the apparent quest to appeal to every possible audience in every possible way.

Few movie marketing techniques could be more effective than placing an adorable dog front and center, and promising a healthy share of "awww" worthy moments. "Look, Gonker's playing fetch with Rob Lowe! What a sweet boy!"

If that's enough for you, there's no judgment here. The movie offers what it promises. But it could have been more.

BOTTOM LINE Once again, the dog is cute.

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