Review: Max Goes Off The Rails Instead Of Being Just A Dog Movie
Director: Boaz Yakin
Screenwriter: Boaz Yakin and Sheldon Lettich
Principal Cast: Josh Wiggins, Thomas Haden Church, Luke Kleintank, Lauren Graham, Mia Xitlali, Dejon LaQuake, and Robbie Amell
Summary:A dog that helped US Marines in Afghanistan returns to the U.S. and is adopted by his handler’s family after suffering a traumatic experience.
When I first heard the concept for Max my first thought was “there is about an 80% chance that this movie is going to wreck me.” I’m a huge sucker for animal movies and because of allergies I’m much more a dog person than a cat person. Then I saw the beginning of the trailer when I saw Tomorrowland and I turned to my friend and said “there is a very good chance this is going to wreck me.” By the time the trailer ended I turned to him and said “I take it back; I know this movie is going to wreck me.” I went into Max expecting to have mascara all over my face by the end.
Max doesn’t let itself be just a movie about a sad dog suffering from PTSD, but instead decides to go completely off the rails with weapons trafficking and Mexican cartels.
I would say that Max is ~50% a half decent movie. That half is when the movie is exactly what it says during the trailer. We meet Max and his handler, Kyle (Robbie Amell), as they serve in Afghanistan. We establish that Kyle’s family at home is very patriotic by talking about God a lot and constantly showing us the flag outside their house. Justin (Josh Wiggins), Kyle’s younger brother, is burning stolen video games and being the kind of brat that comes with being a preteen much to the dismay of his father (Thomas Haden Church) and mother (Lauren Graham). When Kyle is killed Max can’t work in the field anymore and is adopted by Justin and his parents. Max lashes out at everyone and suffers from PTSD the same way that a human would. He freaks out during the 4th of July fireworks, and most of the first half is Justin and Max starting to get along and trust each other. Those are the parts that work.
Then about halfway through the movie it decides to go completely off the rails. Kyle’s childhood friend and fellow soldier, Tyler, (Luke Kleintank) returns early, and the movie decides that the best course of action would be to bring in weapons trafficking because of course. It makes the movie’s tone do a complete 180 as Tyler lurks in the background like a super villain and tries to get Max put down. It made what was supposed to be a family movie that had the chance to move me to tears suddenly became so ridiculous that I spent the second half shaking my head and laughing to myself. The score by Armageddon alumni Trevor Rabin doesn’t help either, as each moment is ruined with dramatic scores that should be left to a different genre of movie.
Thus far the best comment I’ve seen on social media about Max is akin to “the dog acts his way around the humans” and that’s pretty accurate. Church tries to make Justin’s dad, Ray, a complex character, but the moment he pulls out a gun and goes to shoot Max right there in the backyard I couldn’t take him seriously. Justin has a friend Chey (Dejon LaQuake) who is a ruthless Latin stereotype and his cousin Carmen (Mia Xitlali) who takes up the female Latin stereotypes which doesn’t help the movie along. Amell is okay for the little screen time that he has in the “all American soldier” kind of way that the movie needs him to be. Graham tries very hard to bring sympathy as the second “heart” of the movie, but the script doesn’t give her much to do aside from keep the peace between the men in her family and cry.
Max doesn’t seem to have the confidence that a movie about a sad dog is enough, and decides to compensate by bringing in a super villain that wants to kill dogs and kids so he can make a quick buck selling the military weapons to more super villains. Between a plot that becomes laughable and far too many coincidences needed to keep the plot going, I just can’t see Max as anything other than a rental. The audience I saw it with seemed to have quite a few people that enjoyed it, so who knows? Perhaps I just wanted more from a movie that I thought was going to make me cry and instead made me laugh.