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Max Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Max (2015) movie poster Max

Theatrical Release: June 26, 2015 / Running Time: 111 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Boaz Yakin / Writers: Boaz Yakin, Sheldon Lettich

Cast: Thomas Haden Church (Ray Wincott), Josh Wiggins (Justin Wincott), Luke Kleintank (Tyler Harne), Lauren Graham (Pamela Wincott), Robbie Amell (Kyle Wincott), Mia Xitlali (Carmen), Dejon LaQuake (Chuy), Jay Hernandez (Sergeant Reyes), Owen Harn (Deputy Stack), Joseph Julian Soria (Emilio)

Buy Max from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD DVD Instant Video

There has never been a shortage of family-oriented dog movies in Hollywood. Walt Disney put out a few a year during his live-action heyday in the 1950s and '60s and others had been prominently featuring dogs decades earlier.
The prevalent dog movie of late is to personify canine with voices and computer-animated mouth movements, but others opt for something more realistic and perhaps you'd say sophisticated. Loosely based on a true story, Max is more in the tradition of Marley & Me and My Dog Skip than Cats & Dogs and Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

The film's opening text indicates that dogs have been used by the military since World War I, with over 3,000 canines having served in our most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We open in Afghanistan, where a Belgian Malinois named Max is the loyal and dutiful companion to U.S. Marines, specifically Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell). Our first glimpse of the dog in action has him uncovering a secret stash of RPGs and AKs from which villagers have been supplying the Taliban.

Our second glimpse has Max feeling trepidatious about leading his unit of Marines into the desert. They encounter resistance and Kyle dies. Max, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, is about to be put down. Instead, Kyle's Texas family decides to adopt the veteran dog and give him a chance at a new life. The dog isn't great around most people, as Kyle's parents, Ray (Thomas Haden Church) and Pamela (Lauren Graham), find out. But, the dog is surprisingly calm around Justin (Josh Wiggins), Kyle's snarky younger brother.

"Max" tells the story of a PTSD-afflicted Marines dog after he returns home to the US.

Justin is something of a troubled young teen, who wears 'Murica t-shirts and dabbles in selling pirated computer games. Naturally, the dog brings out some good in him and the friendship is mutually beneficial. Max grows more comfortable around Justin with the help of Carmen (Mia Xitlali), the cousin of Justin's Mexican-American best friend Chuy (Dejon LaQuake). Another cousin of Chuy, Emilio (Joseph Julian Soria), is mixed up in worse things than bootlegged software. He is involved in a sale of illegal automatic weapons, which Tyler (Luke Kleintank), Kyle's suspiciously-discharged friend and Ray's new storage facility employee, is behind.

Can the dog and the kids save the day from these arms-dealing bad men? Do you even have to ask?

A patriotic film that moves from tearjerker to inspiring, Max is seemingly tailor-made for America's heartland. It's the kind of movie that grandparents would buy for grandchildren knowing very little about movies. Dog lovers will probably eat it up, as evidenced by the most respectable 6.8 average user rating the film currently holds on IMDb. As a cat person without strong feelings toward the military, Max truly didn't do much for me.

Justin (Josh Wiggins), Carmen (Mia Xitlali), and Chuy (Dejon LaQuake) are the young human protagonists of "Max."

Though technically polished, Max is dramatically lacking. Poor acting gives this the feel of a television movie and not even a passable one. While you might think I'm being hard on the predominantly young and inexperienced human cast, even vets like Church and Graham can't seem to find the right tone
to serve this material that alternates between treacly and ludicrous. As for the title character, he does little to distinguish himself for someone not enamored with dogs. Sure, he saves the day repeatedly, but he isn't a particularly compelling or photogenic presence ever.

Max is co-written and directed by Boaz Yakin, whose career has underwhelmed since he helmed the extremely endearing Remember the Titans in 2000. More frequently a writer than director since that football drama, Yakin has dabbled in different genres, from writing and directing the Jason Statham vehicle Safe to contributing to the scripts of franchise nonstarter Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and the sequel-spawning hit magician heist caper Now You See Me. Yakin's return to family fare and the director's chair does little to restore our faith in his career.

Max grossed $42.7 million domestically and almost nothing outside the United States, numbers that look weak for a June wide release, but actually probably satisfied Warner Bros. Pictures during their challenging 2015, considering the unmarketable concept and modest $20 M production budget.

The film is now available to own on DVD and in the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here.

Max: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Descriptive Video Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Service, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

As described above, Max may feel like a television movie, but it definitely looks like a theatrical one. The polished 2.40:1 visuals are crisp and clear on Blu-ray, with the often sunny scenery full of detail. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix also offers an appropriate amount of engagement for a 2015 studio film. A standard selection of subs and dubs plus a descriptive track for the blind are also included.

The six dogs who played Max are recognized in "Working with Max." "Hero Dogs: A Journey" celebrates the real four-legged heroes on whom Max is based.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Max is joined by two short bonus features on Blu-ray, each presented in HD.

"Working with Max" (4:49) lets cast and crew discuss how it was to make a movie with a dog,
while also providing looks at the principal canine and five others who played the title role.

"Hero Dogs: A Journey" (7:43) considers the Belgian Malinois and its well-suitedness to saving lives in the military.

The DVD only gets "Working with Max."

The Blu-ray opens with two promos for digital movies, the first advocating disc to digital conversion and the second touting the ease and availability of legal downloading. The DVD starts up with trailers for Pan and LEGO Dimensions, before running those two digital movie promos.

As usual, Warner simply attaches score to a static menu adapted from a poster design.

Thomas Haden Church plays a Dad and former Marine who was wounded in Iraq in "Max."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Max is one of those movies that require a blinding love of dogs to overlook its glaring story and dramatic weaknesses. Many will be able to, but I was not. With its fine feature presentation and minimal extras, Warner's combo pack is serviceable but one I recommend skipping.

Buy Max from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Dogs: Benji the Hunted Air Bud Beverly Hills Chihuahua Old Yeller & Savage Sam Greyfriars Bobby Wishbone Marley & Me
Animals: Dolphin Tale Free Willy The Black Stallion How to Train Your Dragon Mr. Popper's Penguins
Thomas Haden Church: Heaven Is for Real We Bought a Zoo Easy A Smart People Spider-Man 3
Lauren Graham: The Pacifier Evan Almighty Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
2015 Family Films: War Room Pan Tomorrowland Goosebumps
Directed by Boaz Yakin: Remember the Titans | Written by Boaz Yakin: Now You See Me Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

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Reviewed January 13, 2016.



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