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  Max Good Boy
Year: 2015
Director: Boaz Yakin
Stars: Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, Luke Kleintank, Lauren Graham, Robbie Amell, Mia Xitlali, Dejon LaQuake, Jay Hernandez, Owen Harn, Joseph Julian Soria, Raymond W. Beal, Edgar Arreola, Jason Davis, Pete Burris, Miles Mussenden
Genre: Drama, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell) is a United States Marine stationed in Afghanistan who has trained Max, the dog assigned to him, to sniff out weaponry and explosives for purposes of uncovering caches and keeping the military on patrol safe when the animal can detect if there are any hidden bombs in the vicinity. Kyle keeps in contact with his family over the internet, and his parents Ray (Thomas Haden Church) and Pamela (Lauren Graham) couldn't be more proud of him; however, his teenage brother Justin (Josh Wiggins) remains unimpressed, and refuses even to speak to Kyle when he calls, preferring to play his computer games instead. But a tragedy is about to hit the Wincotts, and Justin will have to buck up his ideas...

Heroic pooches have been part of cinema ever since Rescued by Rover in 1905 featured a dog performing the endeavour of the title, and as there will never be a shortage of dog lovers there will always be a market for presenting the beasts on screens big and small to feed that admiration the audience has for its four legged friends. In this case, Max was a war dog, which meant he was pressed into service as one of those brave creatures which help to save lives in some of the most dangerous regions of the global, the war zones that would see many more slaughtered if the Maxes of this world had not been providing their assistance. But what happens when they have to come home?

That was the premise here, as we followed Max after his master was killed in an explosion that wasn't the dog's fault, but the poor planning of one of Kyle’s fellow Marines, Tyler Harne (Luke Kleintank), though as we quickly suss he is the baddie in this situation we can surmise he will have to face his comeuppance, and at the hands (paws?) of the bereaved Max too, for the most dramatic satisfaction. When Kyle is brought home for his funeral, the Wincotts decide to look after the dog as well since he is regarded as family, and if nothing else something to remember the dead son by, but Max is suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and emotionally is in a bad way, so it appears as if he will be put down.

The previously surly Justin, as shocked as anyone but perhaps more remorseful that he wasn't nicer to his brother while he was alive, is persuaded to take on the care of Max, and so far this looks to be a quiet drama (barking aside) of a young boy finding his feet by helping a poor dog adjust to life away from the military. However, director Boaz Yakin, as if quite taken with the idea of a canine of action, decided to shake things up in the second half by introducing an adventure element that saw Justin and Max teaming up to foil gun runners, much like a modern day Rin Tin Tin or Lassie would have done - or indeed a modern day Rover. This wasn't quite the crunching gear change it could have been, but it did make the film come across as very much in two halves, first one drama, second one action.

As long as the dog was at the centre of the story and didn't get killed at the end, then you imagine that target audience would be satisfied, though some took against the sentimentalising of the war theme to be an affront, as after all the conflict in Afghanistan was still controversial. Yet this didn't really get into the politics, in fact it pretty much ignored it once Justin is bonding with Max, and operated more as a tribute to military dogs that have been conducive to saving lives than an examination of why they needed to be put at risk in the first place. In that way this was more like a family movie from the nineteen-eighties where it simply accepted the United States was a defender of freedom and set up antagonists for the good guys to take down, here the gun runners, though with a teenage twist where Justin falls for Latina Carmen (Mia Xitlali), cousin of his best friend Chuy (Dejon LaQuake), and with Max they become akin to a Hanna Barbera cartoon gang of crimefighters. For what it was, an "aww" delivery system for dog fans, Max wasn’t too bad, though doubtless you could pick it apart if the mood took you. Music by Trevor Rabin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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