When it comes to dog movies, my standard is Marley & Me. It’s the perfect blend of humor and sentimentality that most dog lovers can enjoy. However, it’s easy to go wrong with dog movies, especially when people try to cram too much into the plot.
That’s kind of what happened with Max.
The premise is this. A bomb sniffing dog named Max is adopted by his grieving handler’s family after he’s killed in action. It’s earnestly patriotic and clearly aimed at conservative Christian audiences. If you need the plot, take an entire season of Lassie, significantly increase the violence and you have Max.
There is a lot of violence. A surprising amount of violence for a PG movie. It was almost a bit too much for me and this probably isn’t a movie I’d consider bringing my kid to. And I brought my kid to Ted.
That’s because it’s harsh and hard to watch, not to mention stuffed full of clichés. We have the younger brother in the shadow of his more successful and impressive older brother, who gets attention from their distant father by acting out. Of course, when given the opportunity to chat with his older brother, he turns it down and instead plays video games.
So of course the older brother is going to buy it a few minutes later. This leaves his trusty canine companion with nowhere to go and in danger of being euthanized.
So the family adopts him and he bonds with the little brother. It’s a good redemption movie that would have been fine on its own. It wouldn’t have been a Marley & Me, but it wouldn’t have turned into a train wreck either.
Then, suddenly, for no reason at all, we’re plunged into some kind of side plot where another army guy is up to something nefarious, with the help of a bunch of drooling, angry Rottweilers that Max fights more than a few times. I don’t know if they thought the movie needed more action, but it actually got a bit ridiculous.
If they’d left it alone and stuck with the simple story, it might have worked. But really, this sentimental coming of age story becomes something ugly and dark. You know what it feels like? It feels like what would happen if someone asked Quinton Tarantino to write an episode of the Veggie Tales. It just got weird, and filled with violent intrigue. It really was like two completely different movies slapped together. On their own, each could have been a passable effort.
But slapped together, it’s just jarring and disorienting.
I will say the movie has its strong points. I particularly liked the scene where Max is pacing around nervously during a Fourth of July celebration, because he’s a bomb dog with PTSD. Is it weird that the dog was one of the best actors in the movie?
For dog lovers, it’s a decent movie, but the dog fight scenes were a bit too much and the entire secondary plot was very confusing. All in all, it’s not terrible but it’s just not cohesive, which makes it hard to watch.
And it’s sure no Marley & Me.
WE GAVE IT : 3 STARS! Watch the Official Trailer and See the Official Movie Poster below