Max (2015)

This is not a movie about a German Shepherd. This is the story of a boy and his Malinois Belgian Shepherd. The difference between the two kinds of dogs is pretty minimal, but it itched at the back of my head through the whole movie - Max's hind was very high, and his build was much more slight than I expected. It makes sense that he wasn't the breed of dog that I thought he was going in.

This is a movie for kids. It just is. It has a modicum of the horrors of war, but no real blood or anything. Even when the Marine who was Max's handler (Robbie Amell) gets gunned down, we never see it. Instead, we concentrate on the Marine's little brother (Josh Wiggins) at home and his unfortunate money making scheme of ripping games from physical media and selling the now unprotected games to an evil Mexican guy (I'm going with Mexican over Latino here because he's actually from Mexico, so it's more accurate).

Inevitably, the Marine does, in fact, die in battle, and Max is inconsolable. Max is notably aggressive toward everyone who tries to handle him, and he particularly does not like the handler's best friend for life, played by Luke Kleintank. We learn early on that Luke is doing something very bad having to do with stealing arms from the Taliban, but we'll go into that a bit later. Max eventually decides that younger brother Josh smells enough like his beloved dead handler that Max will obey this smaller version. The Marines decide that Max can't stay in the military, as he is a dangerous weapon that will attack and kill anyone on either side indiscriminately. Obviously, they just give him over to Josh and his family to let loose the horror of a dog-based bloodbath on the streets of hometown, USA.

The story is not a complicated one. Kid doesn't appreciate sibling who gives his life for his country, kid inherits dog, kid hates dog, kid gets girlfriend, kid loves dog, dog saves kid. It's not complicated, and it doesn't surprise the viewer at any point. That said, it is a nice story that kids can watch, relate to, and enjoy. I mean, who doesn't root for the plucky pup that everyone is willing to write off? It's like Benji as a more aggressive, more modern story.

Hey, Max. One of us is going to die soon!
The only actor I could recognize in the movie was Thomas Haden Church as the stern father. He's about as cookie-cutter a character as you can get, so it doesn't require a whole lot. In fact, all of these characters are straight from the kids movie template, so none of them have to act all that much - which is good for many of them, as this movie isn't dripping with talent.

Direction was okay
Editing was okay
Story was weak
Dialog was weak
Acting wasn't great

Bottom Line: A kids movie that updates an old idea well enough for kids, but not for adults.



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