‘Max’ isn’t even for the dogs’

By Bob Bloom
The marketing campaign for “Max” creates the perception that it’s a fuzzy family drama about the rehabilitation of a combat dog — that the film is a tribute to those animals that have bravely served with our troops overseas.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. “Max” does have a few touching moments, but they are wedged inside a crime drama centering on illicit arms sales and betrayal of one’s friends and country.
Thus this salute to these wonderful canines rings false and hollow. The executives behind “Max” should be ashamed of the cynical way in which they have betrayed the contributions of these animals.
The more I think about “Max,” the angrier I get, because if the filmmakers had simply focused their energies on a more positive story — the challenges of returning and assimilating a combat dog back into American society — into a civilian environment — they could have showcased a much better feature.
Instead, they employ a group of lazy clichéd and formulaic situations to tell a story that is totally undeserving of its subject matter.
Max’s handler, Kyle Wincott, is killed in an ambush in Afghanistan. The two were so close that when Max is returned to the United States, he is about to be put down because his grief is so profound that no one can handle him.
Enter Kyle’s younger brother, Justin (Josh Wiggins), a rebellious youth who deals in black-market videos and disdains the gung-ho attitude of Kyle and their father.
Max takes a liking to Justin, and the family adopts him to save his life. The dog becomes Justin’s responsibility — one he is very reluctant to accept.
With the help of Carmen (Mia Xitali), the cousin of Justin’s friend, Chuy (Dejon LaQuake), the teenager and the dog forge a strong bond.
But Tyler (Luke Kleintank), Kyle’s former Army buddy, now discharged, enters the scene and creates doubt within the family, especially in the mind of Justin and Kyle’s dad, Ray, (Thomas Haden Church), about Max’s stability.
The plotline is painted in broad strokes. No shading is allowed; you know who is good and who is bad.
At times the film plays like a two-hour episode of “Lassie” or “Rin Tin Tin,” with the only cliché missing being the line, “I think he’s trying to tell us something.”
Not only is “Max” guilty of being, at times, preposterous and manipulative, but it also is dishonest. It’s a crime and a shame that, instead of being a credit to the animals it sets out to honor, the film is a contemptuous slap in their faces.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

1 star out of 4
(PG), action violence, language, mature themes

  • ReelBob

    What’s your take on “Max?” Were you as offended as I was? Let me know what you think of the film at ReelBob.