Attempting to steal our hearts this August is Boaz Yakin’s Max, the tale of an ex-service dog and his life once he touches back down on American soil. Its contents are enough to make a patriot bawl his eyes out, but whether it can work its charm on the British public remains to be seen. Cultural suitability aside, Max has enough base appeal to engage the preteen viewer.
When his handler, Kyle, is mortally wounded in Afghanistan, military working dog Max is struck down with PTSD and deemed no longer fit for duty. After being sent home to the USA, his aggressive behaviour almost costs him his life before he is adopted by Kyle’s family. Kyle’s brother Justin (Josh Wiggins) connects with the dog, and they quickly become close. As dangerous deals come to light in Justin’s home town, the pair team up and with the help of Justin’s friends Chuy (Dejon LaQuake) and Carmen (Mia Xitlali), they battle to set things right.
The strongest aspect of this film is its opening, during which the audience is transported to a slightly family-friendlier Afghanistan, and made to watch the ordeal that turns Max’s life upside down. It is certainly compelling, and the funeral scene which follows could prompt a tear from the most rigid of individuals. However, the minute 13-year-old Justin takes centre stage as protagonist, and the film’s efforts are permanently redirected towards appealing to preteens. Character drama and action scenes are all smeared with a sticky sweet glaze that leaves older viewers yearning for more. The music is overstated, and character development stops beyond the imagination of a young teenager.
Nevertheless, editing is good, even if the material includes multiple scenes of dogfights. The canine star is naturally well-trained and puts in a good performance, as do the young actors. Yakin, who wrote and directed the movie, clearly succeeded in creating a family-friendly picture that kids will love, but it lacks the bite to truly appeal to accompanying parents who may be too busy rolling their eyes to keep up.
Max is released nationwide on 7th August 2015.
Watch the trailer for Max here: