Saturday, July 4, 2015

Review: Max (2015)

         
               
              'Max' Doesn't Bite, But He Doesn't Bark Either
           
         The best way I can describe how passable Max is is like this: It's like a dog treat that has flavor, but a rather plain aftertaste.

          Story:
      Max follows the story of a young kid named Justin (Josh Wiggins) whose brother Kyle (Robbie Amell) dies in the Army, leaving him with Kyle's military dog named Max. As the film progresses, Justin begins to form a bond with Max that shapes him as a person.

         Ups:
      First off, I loved the cinematography. I thought the film was beautifully shot by Stefan Czapsky. I also thought Josh Wiggins did a nice job as Justin and seamlessly showcased his character's arc from being slightly withdrawn and reluctant to take care of his brother's dog to being able to treat him as a friend. Plus, he and Mia Xitlali, who plays his friend/love interest Carmen, had great chemistry.

       It was also refreshing to see a war film not go deep into the politics of war or come off as a propaganda piece. It focuses on how it affects the family as well as the dogs that aid soldiers in battle and I liked that.

         Downs:
       Now, I thought Thomas Haden Church, who plays Justin's father, was a little too cliched as the disapproving father who looks highly of the older sibling because he was a war hero. I think Church is a very capable actor, but he wasn't able to elevate the character he was given.

        I also thought the pacing was glacial at times and the plot eventually deals with Justin caught up in a dirty video game piracy deal and it was completely out of left field. I would've preferred that they just focused on Justin growing as a character and the bond between him and Max, making it an intimate character drama.

        Consensus:
        Overall, Max is a serviceable family drama that barks out refreshing ideas, yet still feels like it is being put on a leash. The film looks nice and has a solid performance from the lead actor, but some plot points didn't mesh well and the pacing was off at times.

        Would I Recommend It?:
        I suppose. It's a nice family movie that you can take the kids to see. It isn't something to rush out and see in theaters, though. I'd wait for it to come on DVD.

Grade: B-