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★★✩✩✩

Max

Directed by Boaz Yakin

Starring Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, and Luke Kleintank

Rated PG

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Max is a touching story about a marine dog who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after losing his handler, Kyle, in Afghanistan. As Kyle’s family tries to figure out the circumstances leading to his death, the movie tugs at heartstrings with its portrayal of the agile, strong, and loyal dog, Max, helping them at every stage. Max is the highlight of the film, which is very aptly named — the plot and acting are not extraordinary.

After Kyle is killed in Afghanistan, Max is sent back to Texas, U.S.A. — reacting violently to everyone and everything with one exception: Kyle’s rebellious teenage brother, Justin (Josh Wiggins). Wiggins is convincing as the misunderstood and annoying teenager who grows more and more likeable as the movie progresses. Thomas Haden Church plays Justin’s father, a conservative war veteran, and does a good job at being thoroughly unlikeable. Justin and his friends add a light-hearted element to the movie with their loyal friendships, and the scenes with their bike-stunts are entertaining and fast-paced. The other actors fail to make much of an impact though; for example, Luke Kleintank as Tyler — soldier turned arms dealer — is nowhere as threatening as he should have been. The scenes that show him or his cronies threatening Justin and his teenaged friends are almost laughable, and the hardened criminals add almost nothing to the experience by way of thrill. This might be because Max is the focus of the entire movie — everything else serves as the backdrop, but the storyline and characters feel forced enough that it is difficult to feel immersed.

The dog, Max, however, is unquestionably the best part of the movie. Loyal, playful, and loveable the way only a dog can be, the scenes featuring him and Justin are a treat. My loyalties throughout the movie were based on whether the person was liked by Max.

This movie was a good tribute to dogs who have served in the U.S. Army and their handlers. Aside from this, there isn’t much to the movie. I certainly enjoyed it though, and would recommend watching it only for Max.