Best described as Lassie for a post-9/11 world, Max tells the story of a Belgian Malinois that helps U.S Marines in Afghanistan sniff out possible danger. When his trainer and best friend Kyle is killed in action, Max is left with post traumatic stress disorder – because dogs can get that too apparently – and is due to be put down by the military.
Fortunately for him though, Kyle’s family decide to take him into their home and task Kyle’s young and obnoxious brother with looking after the dog. Of course, it isn’t long before a bond grows between boy and dog, and their relationship begins to heal the wounds of grief for both.
At the beginning of Max, it’s really difficult to decipher its tone. It’s hard to gauge whether the film will play out like a family comedy/drama reminiscent of Marley & Me, or whether it’ll play more like an action film rooted in war.
It isn’t until about halfway through that you realise Max is actually a combination of both; a strange crossbreed of Marley and Rambo which, against my better judgement, I couldn’t help but enjoy.
It’s rife with flaws and the patriotic flag-waving feels inappropriate for a film marketed toward a younger audience, to the point where it feels, at times, like a propaganda piece for children.
The lead character Justin is, for the most part, obnoxious and unlikeable too, which makes it difficult to watch at times. Again, about half way through you do finally get to empathise with him a little though, which at least saves the film from total disaster.
Despite its faults, Max is very entertaining, if in a trashy way. From the opening moments it’s doing what you’d basically expect and pulls at the heartstrings. It’s final half an hour, which sees Max and Justin go up against arm dealers, is surprisingly ‘grown-up’ and the dog-on-dog fight sequences are particularly brutal, earning the film an unexpected, but justified 12a rating.
Max is charming, funny at times and the dogs are obviously adorable. If I had seen this sixteen years ago I would probably have loved it, and I think families will enjoy this one a lot.
Image credit to http://www.pixelblueeyes.com