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REVIEW — “Max”

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Max is about a young teenage gamer Justin (Josh Wiggins). Like most kids his age he often quarrels with his parents (Thomas Haden Church and Lauren Graham) and is in desperate need of an attitude adjustment. Matters are made worse when Justin’s older brother Kyle dies while serving in Afghanistan.  Kyle’s dog, Max, survives the attack and Justin is put in charge of caring for him while trying to adjust to life without his older brother.

At first,  Max feels a lot like a Marines commercial disguised as a coming of age film.  This movie makes sure you are aware that this story is about true heroes, loyalty, sacrifice, becoming a MAN and AMERICAAA! While all of these are terrific themes in and of themselves, it is forced and comes off as overbearing.   Luckily after the 4th of July fireworks die out, this movie settles down and focuses on the bond between Justin and his brother’s dog.

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Justin has two solid friends, Carmen (Mia Xitlali) and Chuy (Dejon LaQuake). They provide most of the film’s comic relief. Their wise-cracks are pretty contrived but their delivery is great. These young teenagers have a good sense of comedic timing and their scenes with Justin are delightful. They steal every scene they are in.

Max has a few strengths but subtlety is not one of them. My biggest problem with Max is how heavy handed the score is. Instead of crafting meaningful emotional scenes and letting the audience react, the film just uses the music as a crutch. As time went on I felt like my emotions were being bossed around and it often resulted in having the opposite effect.

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Max is rated PG. It is a family movie, but I wouldn’t advise bringing any small children. The climax is very perilous and the brief violence borders on qualifying it for a PG-13 rating. Overall, Max is enjoyable and heartwarming as all movies with dogs should be. I’m not much of an animal person but this movie almost made me want a dog for myself. Alllmost. However, I’m not confident it’s worth the price of a theater ticket. Unless you’re dying to see it, I would advise waiting until it hits Redbox.

2.5/5

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