Directed by Boaz Yakin. Produced by Karen Rosenfelt. Written by Sheldon Lettich and Boaz Yakin. Release date: June 26, 2015.
The second dog-centric movie of 2015 - after the fantastic White God - comes to us in the form of Max, a movie in which a dog gets PTSD, is adopted by a family, and then helps solve all of their issues. If you come from a somewhat dysfunctional family with an annoying teenager, a hardened military father, and a nonentity of a mother, just get a dog and all of your problems will be solved! I'm pretty sure that's what Max's message is, anyway. It's not like a movie about a dog that served in the American military would have any other purpose, right?
So, yes, "Max" refers to a dog who served in the military, had his handler (Robbie Amell) killed in an ambush, returned to America with dog-PTSD, and is adopted by his handler's family. The teenager is Justin (Josh Wiggins), the father is Ray (Thomas Haden Church), and the mother is Pamela (Lauren Graham). Full disclosure: I had to look up the names of these people on the internet. They resonated with me so little that remembering that their characters were given names was too strenuous a task for my brain. They're stereotypes who exist to be fixed by the dog - and even then, that's only somewhat successful.
What's perhaps oddest about Max is that it eventually turns into this weird mystery-thriller in its second act, and uses that event - not so much the dog - to bring the family closer together. There's a villain who's so clearly the villain from scene one that when the film reveals that he's the bad guy, you roll your eyes at how that was supposed to be a surprise. And the villain really, really hates Max, because dogs are good judges of character, someone at one point says in the film. He's a cartoonish central villain.
As Max plays, the frequency with which I rolled my eyes and yearned for it to be over increased. It gets sillier, it gets cheesier, it gets more manipulative, and it becomes somehow more formulaic than just a brief plot overview makes it feel. It's hard to imagine any adult taking it seriously or having it resonate with them at all, but then people are suckers for animals in movies, and Max has a pretty decent one in the form of its leading dog.