Max Parent Review

Despite the fact the movie has huge plot holes and ridiculous scenarios at times, the storyline's strong point is the relationship between a dog and a young owner who both find a new leash on life.

Overall B

War is a traumatizing event -- for both humans and animals. So the family of the soldier that worked with the canine unit in Afghanistan, adopts his dog when the animal returns to the USA.

Violence C
Sexual Content A-
Profanity B+
Substance Use B+

Max is rated PG for action violence, peril, brief language and some thematic elements.

Movie Review

Not all soldiers walk on two feet. Some of them have four. Max is one of those. The highly trained German shepherd serves as a military dog with the US Marines in Afghanistan, along with his handler Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell). Their assignment is to search out explosives and clear the path for the rest of the unit. It is a dangerous and often thankless job. But Kyle and Max have an incredible bond. Then tragedy strikes.

Max is shipped back to the dog training facility to deal with the after effects of the event. Sadly, he is a changed animal—aggressive, skittish and unreliable. The army’s only option is to put him down. Still, Kyle’s parents (Thomas Haden Church, Lauren Graham) want to give the dog a second chance. They plead with Sergeant Reyes (Jay Hernadez) to let them take him home.

Kyle’s younger brother Justin (Josh Wiggins) is put in charge of Max. Yet taking care of the unsettled animal is the last thing this sullen teen wants to do. While Kyle was fighting in the hot desert sands of Afghanistan, Justin was holed up in his room firing endless rounds of ammunition in video war games. Dealing with reality and responsibility are tough adjustments for the youth.

Although Max addresses subjects like post-traumatic stress disorder and drug cartels, at its heart it is a boy and his dog story in the vein of Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog, My Dog Skip and Old Yeller. In this case, the plot involves both a troubled dog and a troubled teen. And like the other films in this genre, it is a pairing that seems to work for a tween audience.

Fortunately the actual depictions of war violence are limited to a couple of tense and deadly encounters with the enemy. However there are frequent scenes involving guns (including weapons aimed at animals) that may be too frightening for young children. Teens are also chased and shot at. As well, there are depictions of illegal behavior such as arms sales and game pirating. While selling weapons may be outside the realm of most adolescents, the game pirating portrayed is a kind of gateway crime that is far more accessible. The script also contains the stereotypical bad cop character, as well as some shady military operatives and Mexican drug runners.

For older kids and younger teens, this film contains impressive dog handling, some positive depictions of Latinos and a change of heart for a boy and his family. Despite the fact the movie has huge plot holes and ridiculous scenarios at times, the storyline’s strong point is the relationship between a dog and a young owner who both find a new leash on life.

Directed by Boaz Yakin. Starring Lauren Graham, Robbie Amell, Thomas Haden Church. Running time: 111 minutes. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Max here.

Max Parents Guide

Talk about the movie with your family…

Do depictions of bad policemen and military officers color the way we see these occupations? How do these portrayals reflect on honorable men and women in these careers?

How can crimes like video game or movie pirating become a gateway to even more serious violations? How do people justify these acts? Who is hurt by their actions? What other dangerous situations does Justin put himself in?

Military dogs have played an important role throughout history. Recently their contributions have become more recognized with numerous monuments. Marine veteran Mike Dowling clears up some myths about these fighting dogs.

How does having to care for Max change Justin? Is it important for children and teens to have responsibilities at home? How does the dog help the family deal with their grief?

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