What it's about:
A precision-trained military dog, Max serves on the frontlines in Afghanistan alongside his handler, U.S. Marine Kyle Wincott. But when things go terribly wrong on maneuvers, Kyle is mortally wounded, and Max, traumatised by the loss of his best friend, is unable to remain in service. Sent stateside, the only human he seems willing to connect with is Kyle’s teenage brother, Justin, and Max is saved when he is adopted by Kyle’s family. But Justin has issues of his own, including living up to his father’s expectations, and he isn’t interested in taking responsibility for his brother’s troubled dog. Max may be Justin’s only chance to discover what really happened to Kyle that day on the front, and, with the help of Carmen, a tough-talking young teen who has a way with dogs, Justin begins to appreciate his canine companion.
What we thought:Max tells the story of a military trained dog who is shipped back home after a stint in Afghanstian when his handler Kyle (Robbie Amell) is killed in the line of duty. Suffering from canine PTSD Max is in very bad shape he finds a kindred spirit in Justin (Josh Wiggins) Kyle’s rebellious younger brother. Because of his condition Max can’t return to the battle field, Justin’s family decide to adopt him instead of having him put down. Hoping to teach Justin some responsibility his parents Ray (Thomas Hayden Church) and Pamela (Lauren Graham) put him in charge of Max’s well-being. Justin has a strained relationship with his father, a war hero, while mom tries to keep the peace between them.Max creeps into Justin’s heart and the pair eventually bond. In no time they’re out having adventures with Justin’s friend Chuy (Dejon LaQuake) and his cousin Carmen (Mia Xiali) who is a young dog whisperer.But things take a sinister turn when Kyle’s army buddy Tyler (Luke Kleintank) returns home. Justin and Max discover an illegal arms smuggling deal involving a bad cop, gang bangers and Tyler. With Justin’s family in danger it is up to him and Max to save the day.I’ll be honest I was very surprised that this family movie went from coming of age drama to coming of age thriller! The overall tone of the film is rather serious. There’s also some dog fighting scenes which may upset sensitive viewers. The human actors do their part relatively well. Josh gives an okay performance and a lot of the laughs are brought on by Dejon and his snappy one-liners.But the star and hero of the show is the Belgian Malinois, Max who has some of the best scenes in the film. The particularly gut wrenching one when he attends Kyle’s funeral will bring tears to your eyes.It’s a bit melodramatic and there’s a lot of American patriotism but it’s hard to resist this story about family, friendship and loyalty. It will tug on the heartstrings (as intended) and make you want to go out and adopt a puppy.
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