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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Max movie review: all dogs go to war

Max red light

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)

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 U.S. 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.

red light 1 star

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Max (2015)
US/Can release: Jun 26 2015
UK/Ire release: Aug 07 2015

MPAA: rated PG for action violence, peril, brief language and some thematic elements
BBFC: rated 12A (moderate threat, infrequent moderate violence)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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