Max: Movie Review
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Poised for release just before patriotic celebrations of Independence Day, Max promises to spark enthusiasm for an oft forgotten war hero – the military canine. Set in Texas suburbs and neighboring woodlands, with short glimpses of Afghanistan, the film tells the story of a loyal military working dog (MWD) who lost his master, Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell), to war.
Once a well-respected member of the armed forces, Max, a Belgian Malinois, is deemed unfit for continued service and too dangerous for adoption, after being traumatized by the incident that ended Kyle's life. After an action-packed life sniffing out bombs and protecting U.S. Marines, Max's future appears short-lived.
In the midst of their grief, the Wincott family chooses to honor Kyle's memory by bringing Max home as the newly appointed friend to Justin (Josh Wiggins), Kyle's attitude-filled teen brother. Justin has spent his life proving that he's nothing like his brother or his father, so becoming Kyle's replacement for Max is not high on his list. And Max has earned a reputation as an unfriendly dog to anyone whose name isn't Kyle Wincott. However, Max does seem to at least tolerate Justin. The pointy-eared veteran's fate is in the resentful teen's hands and the family's future lies unsuspectingly in the failure or success of bonding with Max.
Positives and Negatives in Max
The film introduces moviegoers to the important role of military working dogs and their dedication to their job and their handlers. Likewise, it portrays the depths of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which haunts many of our veterans, even canines.
Max is a well-trained war dog. He's believable and engaging in his role. The other characters leave a bit to be desired. It's difficult to relate to or care deeply about the human characters in this film. There could be more empathy for these characters if their personalities and motivations were better depicted.
Dogs fight and get hurt in the film's action scenes. The well-performed encounters provide opportunities to join the emotional conflict between the heroes and villains. However, the dogfights are graphic for a PG-rated movie and will likely be disturbing for children younger than nine.
Max is promoted as a movie that will "show us what family's all about." Viewers may leave the theater feeling a bit disappointed in the Wincotts' family values. The father, played by Thomas Haden Church (Spider-Man 3), is a stoic character and other than being present, primarily offers the cold-shoulder dad role to the story. The mother, played by Lauren Graham (Evan Almighty), only reacts to what's going on around her. Justin and his friends develop values, but more in relation to each other than in the context of family. Max, the loyal companion, excels in his ability to do what's right for the family. In short, the individual values of good moral choices, loyalty, courage and truth shine in this film, but family values seem an afterthought.
There are many incidences of predictable outcomes, which does make the occasional surprise twist refreshing. The bad guys stay bad and the good guys stay good. Max is a hero. The teen boy doesn't remain angry.
Notable Movie Quotes
"A hero always tells the truth no matter what people think and no matter what the consequences."
"You can't get a reward if you didn't do anything to earn it."
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