Directed by Boaz Yakin
Starring Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, Luke Kleintank, Lauren Graham, Robbie Amell, Mia Xitali, Dejon LaQuake and Jay Hernandez.
A US Marines Corp dog returns to the US from Afghanistan and is taken in by his handler’s family after experiencing trauma from war.
From the above description (and from the title) you could be forgiven for thinking that this movie might be a kind of Homeward Bound style of animal movie, or at least give almost all of its focus to following the story through the eyes of the titular dog. This is not the case as we see more the impact of Max on the family, particularly the son of said family, he joins.
The movie sets up in Afghanistan showing us all the skills that Max has with his loyal handler Kyle (Robbie Amell) with him finding a weapons cache, setting up something for later which by the time you get to it I had almost completely forgotten about. We get to meet Kyle’s best friend from home and fellow Marine Tyler (Luke Kleintank) with Tyler letting down Kyle when they get into a firefight resulting in Kyle’s death and Max losing his best friend.
After here the film takes a pretty formulaic route, with Max now being taken in by Kyle’s family and his brother Justin (Josh Wiggins) being obviously resistant to this adoption and pretty much a total douchebag, only interested in himself. Where I think the film makers made a mistake here is that he is instantly unlikable, showing little emotion at his brothers funeral and not helped by the glazed over half smirk Josh Wiggins employs throughout half of this film. He constantly makes decisions that will harm him, Max or his friends, yet is in no way unintelligent making him even less likable.
Unfortunately this means when he finally takes to Max and with the help of his Dad (Thomas Haden Church) and his horribly stereotyped ethnic friends Chuy (Dejon LaQuake) and Carmen (Mia Xitali) to stop Kyle’s best friend Tyler from selling weapons to the Cartel (I know a bit convoluted right?) it never feels like a genuine, organic growth until way too late. If he’d even shown the capacity for this earlier it may have been a different situation.
Despite some frustrating plot holes this movie has some good performances from the older actors with the younger actors unfortunately being given some horrendous lines to have to read. Also the dog actors, actions sequences involving them and the couple of chase sequences are all great watches. This film delivers in terms of showing us how amazing these animals are and how great they can be. I also quite liked adding in the element of a ‘bad guy’ for them to rally with, it just seems very unlikely that a Marine smuggled RPG’s from Afghanistan into good ol’ Texas with such ease or that the local dealer has such high up cartel connections.
Max isn’t a film that was designed for me and for a family with young kids who love dogs, it is a great little coming of age/teen adventure kind of film with some good action and a lovely score which lets you know how you should be feeling all the way through the movie. Unfortunately when the premise is so real it becomes very hard for an adult to suspend their disbelief to be able to buy in to all these characters, especially when Mexican kids are portrayed in a borderline racist way. Max had several elements that could have made it great, they were just too few and far between.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Matthew Spencer-Skeen – Follow me on Twitter