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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

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

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    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.

  • Don’t give them any ideas.

  • RogerBW

    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.

  • You are correct.

  • AlanOne7

    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.

  • 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

    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..

  • 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

    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.

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