“Max” is the only movie to make me cry at its trailer.
Sadly, like so much of modern cinema, the coming attractions told the whole story.
For those not familiar with the previews, “Max” is a formulaic depiction of a Texas family comprised of the usual stock characters.
The eldest son of an emotionally distant veteran follows in his father’s footsteps and is killed in the line of fire, leaving his combat dog, Max, behind.
The task of caring for the distraught Belgian Malinois falls on the younger, overshadowed son, who illegally burns video games for profit, cliff jumps on his bike and wears far too many flannels for Texas in July.
One of the Marines who trained Max explains the dog is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, which makes him aggressive and unruly.
Luckily, a tough young lady with a paw print tattoo arrives to tame the beast and steal the protagonist’s heart.
The dog — or should I say dogs, as Max has four stunt doubles — is more compelling than any of the other characters.
Max, or Carlos as he is known off-screen, and his furry doppelgaengers carry the picture with their canine star power, guilty of inducing many — but by no means enough — awe-inspiring moments.
The plot bends in predictable ways, and it soon becomes a he-said, dog-said between Max and his handler’s former compatriot, who has been smuggling weapons out of Afghanistan.
Which, of course, is all too much for the mother, who cries and gives looks of concern in all the right moments while she ineffectually manages family conflict.
Even more troubling is the excessive, desensitized violence for a family blockbuster, which includes aggressive dog fights with a villainous canine, who, aptly, is named Draco — yes, as in Malfoy.
“Max” is by no means a bad night out, but it has some confusing messages regarding its ‘intended’ audience.
A film hyped as a cross between “Marley and Me” and “American Sniper,” fell short of either comparison, the latter blessedly.
But “Max” could have been so much more.
The life of a combat dog is a war story untold, and it remains so.
Though the opening credits touched on some relevant statistics, including the 3,000 dogs that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the production focused more on Max’s heroic civilian life, such as his ability to track down crooks by picking up their scent from a wad of money.
The movie requires suspension of disbelief at more than a few key plot points and glossed over what could have been its strongest asset in highlighting issues for combat canines.
Frankly, “Max” would have done better as a vignette.
Thanks for the tears, anyway.
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