Max (2015)

Max is the new movie about military dogs… sorta. The premise is that a service dog in Afghanistan loses his handler in battle, gets PTSD, and has to be rotated back to the States. Unfortunately, he’s too traumatized to be returned to civilian life until they realize the dog can be managed by the 15(ish) year old brother of his former handler.

So the movie is about a boy and his ex-marine PTSD-suffering dog and, if that’s what it was really about, it’d be a perfectly charming and emotionally manipulative movie. But it’s really only 25% that and 75% a ridiculous story about shady former marines selling stolen Afghani insurgent guns to Mexican gunrunners. Can the boy and his dog (and his Mexican buddy and his tough-girl tomboy cousin) take down the crooks? Will they be joined by The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Three Investigators? Would the crooks have gotten away with it if it weren’t for these darn kids?

Somebody got their ’80s kids adventure film in my otherwise believable movie about noble service dogs. I can’t say the patently ridiculous gunrunning plot is unwatchable, though sometimes it was tough with my eyes rolling in their sockets. It’s serviceable. But it just reminds me that I’d much rather be watching a movie about a boy bonding with his brother’s service dog (even if that means massive emotional manipulation) and an honest movie about what it’s like for war dogs who return to civilian life.

I have the feeling the marketing department wanted this to be American Sniper: K9 Division but the studio wanted some rollicking good Summer fun and the movie makers wanted it to be a movie about service dogs. The film tried to serve too many masters and failed.

Kind of worth seeing despite the flaws… the boy and his tough-girl girlfriend are good, the dog is great, and Thomas Hayden Church and Lauren Graham are serviceable as the parents (even if Graham’s Texas accent comes and goes).

Score: 71

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