The facts are thus: Dogs have served in the military since World War I and over three thousand dogs have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also a sad but true fact that “Max,” a new film starring Thomas Haden Church, Lauren Graham and Carlos as best friend, hero and Marine, Max puts the hole in wholesome.
The family friendly action starts in Iraq where Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell) is a young, brave Marine, fighting alongside his best friend Tyler (Luke Kleintank) and their beloved bomb sniffing dog Max (Carlos the Dog). Stateside Kyle’s family—Mom (Graham), Dad (Church) and bratty little brother Justin (Josh Wiggins)—stay in touch via Skype and pray for his safe return. When Kyle is killed in action Max and Tyler return. Tyler tries to fit into civilian life but Max has a hard time. Suffering from PTSD—having bonded so closely with Kyle the dog is now at loose ends—and snarls and growls at everyone… except Justin. The Wincotts take the dog in—“This family looks after it’s own,” says Mom.—and Justin, with the help of his dog lover friends tries to rehabilitate Max.
There’s more—teenage romance, betrayal, a gun cartel, bootlegged video games and some good old action adventure—but for the most part “Max” is little more than an episode of “The Littlest Hobo” with slightly higher production value. In fact this may be the “Citizen Kane” of “Littlest Hobo” shows, but make no mistake, the Canadian series about a helpful, ownerless dog did it first and did it better than anything in “Max.” The bungled action scenes and cardboard characters will have you longing for the halcyon days of “Lassie” and “Rin Tin Tin.”
The dog, it must be said, is a pretty actor. Perhaps it’s his large, expressive Bette Davis eyes, or perhaps it’s the general level of incompetence around him, but he comes off well.
“Max” feels like a direct-to-DVD movie that somehow escaped the pound and made it’s way to theatres.