HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:86
Our military dogs are very special beasts in this person’s opinion. I’ve grown up in a Marine family, with multiple brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles having served in the service. Some of them quite closely with military dogs themselves, and I can tell you for a fact that these dogs are not just trained used out in the field. Their handlers are as close to them, and 99% of the time even CLOSER to their animals than you or I are with our childhood dog. To train one of these dogs and to understand them, a handler has to become so intimately involved in the dog’s upbringing that the animal imprints on the human. Which makes it incredibly hard on the soldier when his dog dies, but the reverse is also true. For a human, a dog is a special friend, but for that dog, his owner is his whole life, and when a service dog loses his master in combat, it’s a painful thing to watch. “Max” honors the memories of these service dogs by recreating just that type of event. A soldier is lost in battle and the damaged dog has to come back to the serviceman’s family to find some peace in his remaining years.
When Marine Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell, “The Flash”) is killed in combat due to the negligence of his friend and commanding officer, Tyler (Luke Kleintank), his military dog Max is left to be put down. Already grieving at the loss of their son, Ray (Thomas Hayden Church) and Pamela (Lauren Graham) Wincott decided that Max should come home and be taken care of by their youngest son, Justin (Josh Wiggins). Max is no ordinary puppy, though. He’s suffered the loss of the one and only human that has been by his master for years and is pining over the loss every bit as much as the Wincott family is. Angry and lashing out, the only person that can get him to call down is Justin. Justin has no real desire for a dog. In fact he doesn’t even have much of a desire for anything. Resentful of the hero worship that his older brother got, as well as his veteran father, the boys spends his days pirating software and hanging out of that bike park with his friend Chuy (Dejon LaQuake).
Max ignites a spark in the boy, no matter how hard Justin tries to push that spark down. Caring for a dog like Max gives him a perspective on life and the courage to get interested in Chuy’s spitfire cousin, Carmen (Mia Xitali). What family adventure movie really needs is a conflict, and that comes in the form of Tyler coming home from war. The Wincott’s don’t know that Tyler was the inadvertent cause of Kyle’s death, but the only one who knows the truth is Max. They always say that you should trust a dog’s instincts about people, and Max does NOT like Tyler. Filling Mr. Wincott’s head with stories of Max getting Kyle killed, Tyler infiltrates the family’s inner circle and uses the family business to conduct illegal weapons sales to the Mexican cartel. Things come to a head when Justin and Max discover Tyler’s dirty secret. The only question is what to do about it?
“Max” actually feels like it came straight out of the 80s, or 90s in terms of tone and feel. The adventure, the animal main hero, children doing stupid things to save their town and take care of bad guys. It all feels like “E.T.”, “Free Willy”, “Beethoven” and other similar 90s films. Justin and Max become fast friends, but it’s a shaky friendship, one built on a few reality inconsistencies that the adult in me had to grumble about (A dog that snapped and snarled at people like Max did would have been put down, not let out on trial to a family where he could bite someone), but the kid in me can easily bypass those flaws for the sheer fun involved. I LOVE dogs, and I mean LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE dogs. I’ve grown up with them all my life, and right now I have a buddy who’s sitting under my chair while I write this review right now, so these types of films hold a special place in my heart. Max is a gorgeous German Shephard, and extremely likeable. No matter if he’s licking someone’s hand, or guarding Justin, you WILL be cooing over him. The scene where he struggles to get to his dead master’s body during the funeral is enough to bring even the hardest of men to tears (and I really want to know how they trained the dog to show grief like that, it was really impressive).
“Max” is essentially a family adventure movie from the past. It reads and plays out like those old 90’s animal/human films where dog and boy bond together and take on odds that rightfully should have them dead. The film is never wildly explicit with the action, and thusly had a few eye roll worthy moments, but that kind of comes with the territory when you’re making a PG rated family adventure flick. Chuy was a bit TOO clichéd with his “ese” stereotype, but the rest of the cast was well rounded and fit the happy mold that the film ascribed to. Thomas Haden Church felt a bit forced for the first half of the movie, but once he started coming around to Justin’s side of the story, his character flowed better, and by the end he was doing just fine.
Rated PG for action violence, peril, brief language and some thematic elements
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=57121[/img]The 2.39:1 AVC encoded transfer looks simply magnificent on Blu-ray. Colors are natural and richly saturated. The luscious greens and autumn golds of the Wincott family plot looks amazing, with deep greens, and earthy browns to tone out the blues and oranges of Justin’s sporty bike. Skin tones look fantastic, thanks to an excellently balanced contrast level, and the black levels are nothing short of impeccable. Wonderful inky blanks, with great fine detail being shown in the deepest of darks scenes. Facial detail is wonderful, with every crease and seam on Thomas Hayden Church’s face showing perfectly and every tuft of fur and individual hair replicated to perfection on Max’s coat.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=57129[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio track is nearly as good as the picture perfect image quality. Wonderfully dynamic and lively, with a very nuanced set of surrounds. Vocals are crisp and clear, locked up front like they should be, and the front sound stage is rather diverse with the initial sounds of war. Once the film hits the states, it calms down a bit, but as soon as Tyler and his boys start terrorizing the Wincott’s it’s time for the energy level to pick back up once more. Surrounds usage is impressive, with gunfire ricocheting all around during the first 10 minutes of the movie, and then shifting to laying down the quiet and subtle sounds of the forest where Max and Justin roam. LFE is deep and guttural, adding some nice impact to the gunfire, as well as adding suspense with the soundtrack. The roar of waterfall rumbles with power in the background and the ending explosions as the munitions go off is impressive to say the least.
• Working with Max
• Hero Dogs: A Journey
“Max” is warm and cheery, with all the right trimmings for a good old fashioned family flick. I enjoyed “Max” a LOT more than I was really expecting to. The trailer was sad and depressing, but the whole “adventure” subplot had me worried that it would go south real fast. Instead the movie was wonderfully endearing, both as an animal lover and as a person who has a great respect for our military. “Max” acted as a memorial to these animals who have served alongside their human compatriots, as well as a fun adventure movie for the whole family. The audio and video are simply fantastic, with the only weak link in the whole package being the minimalistic extras. Definitely worth checking out.
Starring: Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, Luke Kleintank, Lauren Graham
Director: Boaz Yakin
Written By: Boaz Yakin, Sheldon Lettich
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese DD 5.1
Runtime: 111 Minutes
MAX Arrives Onto Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on October 27 or Own it Early on Digital HD on October 13!
Buy Max Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Check it Out
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