Release Date: June 26, 2015
Director: Boaz Yakin
Writer: Boaz Yakin
Cast: Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, Luke Kleintank, Lauren Graham, Robbie Amell, Mia Xitlali, Dejon LaQuake, Jay Hernandez, Owen Harn, Joseph Julian Soria, Raymond W. Beal, Edgar Arreola, Jason Davis, Pete Burris, Miles Mussenden, Joan Q. Scott, Andrene Ward-Hammond, Ian Gregg, Thomas La Marche, Alexander Schuler, Zarina Aurah, Varkas Everest
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 111 minutes
Production Company: Warner Bros., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Sunswept Entertainment
Genre: Adventure, Family
All my life I’ve heard that dogs are a man’s best friend. I wouldn’t know firsthand, but going by all that the media outlets say, the phrase does seem to hold some truth. MAX is a great example of this sentiment and takes it much further. Overall, not only is MAX a heartwarming story, but it also shows you how beneficial K-9’s can be in domestic environments and in foreign lands, lending their assistance. It shows that they have intelligence and feelings, just like you and me. They’re not to be taken for granted, and this movie can be a wakeup call to their significance. While this isn’t a true story, it’s inspired by the heroism of all the K-9’s that have helped save the lives of thousands of US Marines around the world.
What initially caught my attention was the amount of training that went into the production. I didn’t research if one dog or multiple were used on set, but the small gestures between the humans and animals show how much work was put into each take. MAX is instantly likeable. I can’t put my finger on it completely, but there seems to be an unwritten rule – some connection of trust between man and beast that can’t be explained. Without saying anything, it’s understood: “If you take care of me, I’ll take care of you.” The dialogue is in the film, but Max just wants to know that you’re there for him. If so, he’s loyal to say the least, which makes you appreciate his character that much more.
There are multiple stories present, and each takes away from the other. The brief war overseas, the human relationships at home, and Max. With Max being the title character, at times it feels like the movie doesn’t focus too much on him. I understand it’s difficult to tell a story about a dog that doesn’t talk, but the lack of focus on him is still noticeable. With regard to the relationship at home, the previews / trailers explain how when Kyle (Robbie Amell) passes away, his younger brother Justin (Josh Wiggins) becomes the new handler of Max. I find it a little disturbing just how fast the family overcomes the tragedy of a lost family member.
That doesn’t take away the job they do afterwards. Ray Wincott (Thomas Haden Church) does a fine job as the head of the household. It is clear towards the middle of the film, but in the beginning I couldn’t tell if he is the biological or step father of one or both the boys. It was a wrench thrown on the picture of a realistic family, which is great because no family is perfect.
The plot, overall, is a bit of a stretch but not too unrealistic. I feel that many of the problems could’ve been solved if the script allowed certain characters to ask intelligent questions instead of whistling in the wind. One character left the Marines prematurely, but no one seemed to care why until it is too late. These questions are important, especially if that person comes into your home and witnesses your son’s death. Though for some reason this doesn’t seem to be important enough to discuss. Towards the end, the confrontation between various characters and Max saving the day is predictable, but still enjoyable.
The movie isn’t executed with top notch precision, but could’ve been. There’s actually a scene where someone is witnessing a kidnap and they forget they have a cell phone. Then, when they realize they have one, they decide not to use it. Why the character decides not to use the cell phone to possibly save lives is beyond me. This alone brings the rating down by a whole point.
I enjoyed MAX for what it is and think most people will too, especially dog owners. It’s what I call a ‘cute little movie’ that does exactly what it’s intended to do. While some scenes are unnecessary and others fall flat, the majority have a warm feel-good effect. The supporting cast is a treat as well, but at times the jokes are pushed too far. I still laughed so I can’t complain too much.
I can honestly say that I’m now interested in owning a dog. That bond seen on screen between man and dog seems special and shows the power of love. I know it will be a lot of responsibility, but if it’s anything like MAX it’s definitely worth it.