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Review: Max

Josh Wiggins stars in Warner Bros. Pictures' "Max"

If reflecting on the trauma that something like war can cause, the vast majority of us would understandably think about the people who spend their time on the battlefields. While that is a logical thing to do since we’re human ourselves, Max paints a picture that includes the military dogs who are also placed under the same dire circumstances. It’s also a family movie with an obvious touch of patriotism and a strong sense of adventure.

Going by the same name as the title of the film, Max is a dog who’s spent his most of his life on the fields of war with the U.S. military. Like many of the dogs before him, he’s been trained to be smart and vision, but some devastating events lead him to be sent off from that life. While they’re not dodging bullets and tracking down their enemies, Max finds himself in the care of a family that’s going through their own troubles.

At its core, there isn’t really anything you wouldn’t expect beforehand if you’re interested in watching Max in action. It’s about a family, its dog and the adventures that surround getting the canine acclimated to life off of the battlefields. When looking at what’s used to tell that tale, that’s when you begin to notice that it is a bit different in some instances. None of it is important enough to alter the overall film or its conclusion, but it’s all significant to the journey.

What’s surprising here is that parts of this journey isn’t as positive as you would first think it would be ahead of time. Since its titular character is a dog and it’s clearly a family movie, I thought I would be on hand for one those completely sappy flicks with nothing but smiles and happiness gracing the screen. Instead, what we have here is a dramatic feature that sometimes shows tragedy from an edgier perspective than anticipated.

One of the reasons for the added edge comes from the family itself. In Max, we’re entering a home that’s fractured even though it includes both parents. The film doesn’t dig that deep into why the family is the way it is, but we’re still able to get an honest view of their dysfunction and what’s behind it. This allows viewers to understand the relationships on-screen as we also find out who they all are as people while never taking too much time away from the main story.

While that certainly is a positive, I do wish there was a bit more juice flowing throughout Max. Right from the early going, there is a ton of emotion in this movie, but most of it is the gloomy kind of feelings that we’re not used to experiencing in family friendly flicks. This works at times, but I do think it would have been a bit more entertaining if it hadn’t been so bleak throughout essentially the entire run time.

My other complaint about Max is due to its length. This turns out to be a decent film regardless of how long it goes on for, but it’s definitely quite a bit longer than it needs to be. Making this a picture that’s less time consuming would have probably made it more enjoyable and less strenuous to watch at certain points.

Throughout much of it, there’s also a true sense of adventure. Even if it’s PG, they include a bunch of different features that create the conflict and danger needed for this kind of film. Some of it turns out to be convenient in terms of the characters involved, but it fits, and that needs to be pointed out since a lot of movies have no issue with ignoring the holes in order to get to their most significant events.

I do appreciate that and the fact that Max manages to tell a coherent story in spite of the many subplots that are introduced and run side by side with the primary plot. Even for great filmmakers working outside of the boundaries a family friendly filmmaking, pulling that off has to be a difficult task. I don’t know what kind of audience this will bring in while it’s in theaters, but at least from my perspective it deserves at least a look for anyone interested in movies done in this style.

Rating: PG

Director: Boaz Yakin

Cast:
Josh Wiggins
Dejon LaQuake
Thomas Hade Church
Robbie Amell
Lauren Graham
Luke Kleintank
Jay Hernandez
Mia Xitlali

Film Length: 111 minutes

Release Date: June 26, 2015

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

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