Max movie review: all dogs go to war

MaryAnn’s quick take: Jingoistic propaganda and heart-tugging cornball melodrama about a dog with PTSD. It’s how we are Enduring Freedom. God bless America.
I’m “biast” (pro): love dogs
I’m “biast” (con): hate propaganda
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
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Like American Sniper, except about a dog, and with a Hardy Boys vibe. In Texas. At the Fourth of July.” I’m pretty sure that was how Max was pitched, and here we are.

It would be bad enough if this jingoistic bit of propaganda had stuck to its literal flag-waving and heart-tugging cornball melodrama about a bomb-sniffing Marine dog with PTSD (canine actor Carlos) and the teenage boy, Justin (Josh Wiggins: Hellion), grieving the death of his soldier brother, the dog’s handler (Robbie Amell: The DUFF), who will help each other heal, natch. But that was not enough for writer (with Sheldon Lettich) and director Boaz Yakin (Safe): he had to toss in an absolutely preposterous mystery about an ex-Marine weapons smuggler (Luke Kleintank) who is somehow able to ship arms confiscated from the Taliban in Afghanistan secretly into the US to sell to generic scary Mexicans to send over the border. This culminates in a ridiculous finale involving kids on bicycles chasing violent, gun-toting criminals in trucks and somehow everything works out okay.

Girls and women — like Justin’s pal Carmen (Mia Xitlali) and mom (Lauren Graham: It’s Kind of a Funny Story) — are good for nothing but teaching Justin and his dad (Thomas Haden Church: Heaven Is for Real) how to be decent men, by pulling them back from the ragey hotheadedness that rules them. Justin’s Mexican-American friend Chuy (Dejon LaQuake) is good for nothing but self-hating ethnic humor (he’s the “charming” comic relief). And only the villain questions the placid acceptance of America’s neverending battle stance, with his realism about ginned-up conflicts and the military industrial complex.

But hey! Look over here at this totally adorbs puppy-training sequence. Max! It’s how we are Enduring Freedom. God bless America.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Max for its representation of girls and women.

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Fri, Aug 07, 2015 4:58pm

It’s a TV series pilot, isn’t it? Set up the protagonists, and then paste them into a pre-plotted adventure to show the sort of thing that they could be doing every week.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  RogerBW
Fri, Aug 07, 2015 8:09pm

Don’t give them any ideas.

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Fri, Aug 07, 2015 9:57pm

Probably too late. But what I mean is, from what you and others have said about the film, the criminal plot isn’t a story that’s tied up tightly with who these people are; it’s a generic adventure that’s there to showcase how they solve it as opposed to how Forensic Investigator With A Gun or Single Female Lawyer would solve it.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  RogerBW
Sat, Aug 08, 2015 1:11pm

You are correct.

Mon, Aug 31, 2015 1:56am

My girlfriend took me to see this with her son, because he’s fifteen, named Justin and wants to get a dog. After ten minutes I started dozing off. After an hour I excused myself to use the rest room and never came back.

This film is endlessly predictable, filled with bad acting, one-dimensional characters, horrible dialog, lame jokes, ridiculous plot-points and way too much violence for a kids’ movie.

Dog instantly recognizing its owner from outside a closed casket at a funeral, check. Hot teeny-bopper instantly taking a shine to the male lead, check. Third-wheel comic relief excusing himself during tender moments, check. Angry Dad who insists the Dog prove itself, check. Dog growling at a good guy because he turns out to be the bad guy, check. Bad guys meeting for an illegal deal in a public area in broad daylight, check. Background music swells and ebbs to tell us what we should be feeling, check.

“Our” Justin wasn’t impressed, and said he’s tired of rah-rah Hollywood war movies. I told him in real life that Dog would’ve attacked an innocent person and the family would’ve gotten sued.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  AlanOne7
Mon, Aug 31, 2015 10:26am

In real life, the dog would’ve bit the kid’s hand off the first time he tried to touch the dog, instead of the dog somehow magically recognizing that the kid was the brother of the beloved dead handler.

Pete Youngman
Pete Youngman
Sat, Dec 12, 2015 2:31pm

Yeah it’s a bit corny and predictable, but jingoistic? If a movie doesn’t make fun of American values or rip the military as baby killers, it must be jingoistic propaganda? Your “military industrial complex” regurgitation and your smug references to God and those who serve their country suggest your politics are tainting your reviews..

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Pete Youngman
Sun, Dec 13, 2015 11:44pm

So, the only two options when it comes to military movies are “lionize the troops” or “rip the military as baby killers”? That’s it?

And I hate to break it to you, but everything about who a critic is — not just me, every critic — “taints” their reviews. You are certainly welcome to find one who is unthinkingly patriotic: they are out there.

Pete Youngman
Pete Youngman
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Dec 14, 2015 3:07am

Don’t think you understand my comments….I was trying to point out that just because a movie comes along that doesn’t portray our military as a bunch of war mongering dunderheads (as is the norm), that doesn’t automatically mean the writers/producers are guilty of ‘jingoistic propaganda’. Respecting those who serve and have lost their limbs or lives in battle is a totally separate issue from one’s opinion on a war. You seem to see something nefarious in this film. I guess as an enlightened liberal commentator you’re just smarter than most of us, and only you can see that ‘Max’ is a political endorsement of our past Middle East policies. Most ‘unthinking patriotic’ commoners like me see this for what it is; a dopey but innocent and likeable movie about a DOG.