Director: Boaz Yakin
Cast: Josh Wiggins, Thomas Haden Church, Lauren Graham and Jay Hernandez
Running Time: 111 minutes
Release Date: August 7th
Max is the story of a Belgian Malinois at war in Afghanistan, who, when his handler is killed, is adopted by the soldier’s family back home in the good ol US of A! What follows is some very light propaganda in the shape of a family film, all filtered through Marley and Me. Unsurprisingly, it never really seems to find its stride. While on paper, and indeed for the first fifteen minutes, this seems unbelievable bordering on unwatchable, it actually manages to squeeze a few decent aspects into its one hour and fifty one minute run time.
The cast, for example, are quite consistently strong, despite some of the stranger choices of the script. In fact, with Thomas Haden Church as the father (sporting an excellent upper lip warmer and some serious Spider-Man 3 neck) and Lauren Graham as the mother (Bible-bashing but sweet, and the proud speaker of the movie’s three most incongruous lines), it’s tough not to wonder how exactly they were roped into this.
Josh Wiggins — as Justin, the younger brother of the family — is also suitably awkward and resentful of his marine older sibling in the beginning, but transitions well into a more likeable, if still awkward teen by the end. His Mexican friends are rather endearing too, which is a testament to their actors, as the script reads as if it was written by someone whose only experience with children or Mexicans stems from ’70s gang movies.
Of course, the real star here is Max, the PTSD-ridden pooch who brings a broken family back together. As a canine protagonist, he is actually used rather well, and the scenes of him and Wiggins’ character bonding end up quite touching. He is a highly trained military dog, which means the scenes in which he is called into action almost make sense. Almost being the key word here, as an escape from a dog pound and some fairly vicious Max versus Rottweiler scenes (No sign of a ‘no animals were harmed’ banner in the credits either) push it into the realm of the over the top.
All in all, it asks the strangely aimless question of what it means to be a hero, against the backdrop of a family trying to repair itself and an odd little arms deal subplot, making for a scattered hodge podge of a story. When it’s bad, it’s really bad, but when it’s not it’s okay. This movie is for those who love either dogs, cringe, small town adventures or the United States. Otherwise, watch it for Thomas Haden Church’s introduction as the ex-marine family man. It’s brief, but it’s perfect.
Not the best movie in a long line of cinematic canines, but by no means the runt of the litter either.