A dog that helped soldiers in Afghanistan returns to the U.S. and is adopted by his handler's family after suffering a traumatic experience.
Max is an incredible story of loss, grief, and recovery. This movie deals with some tough issues. It is about PTSD. Even though the movie focuses on PTSD in an animal, it is also about PTSD in humans. Both the dog and his human handlers must learn to recover and move on. This movie does not have many of the elements that make it a PG-13, but it has the potential to produce intense feelings, particularly in those to whom its subject matter is all too familiar. This movie has generated some controversy as to what a proper rating for this movie should be. The family friendly movie review will chime in on the debate.
The movie opens with a combat scene in Afghanistan. Max and his marine handler, Kyle Wincott, are combat partners. Max walks by a suicide bomber and is injured. A gunfight ensues and Kyle is killed. Meanwhile, back home. Kyleäó»s younger brother, Justin, sits at home making money by pirating video games, not caring for the honor and duty of his brother. At the funeral, Max frees himself from his leash and lays beside the coffin. This is an emotionally intense scene. Max is adopted by Kyleäó»s family. In the beginning, Justin wants little to do with Max, but as the story goes on, both help each other to heal from their wounds.
One day, Max turns on Tyler, a former friend of Kyle. Tyler stole some weapons while they were serving together. Kyle knew about it and told him he could not cover for him. This happens right before Kyle is killed. Tyler tries to convince the family that Max was responsible for Kyleäó»s death, and threatens to have Max put down if there are any incidences. Soon after, Justin is approached by two members of a Spanish drug cartel. Tyler is about to sell them weapons. The drug carteläó»s dogs sense Max nearby and the dogs give chase. Max is wounded by the dogs. Max is accused of biting a corrupt Sheriffäó»s deputy and taken away by animal control. Max escapes and runs home. The plot is complex. The rest of the movie centers on the familyäó»s battle with the drug cartel and their attempts to save Max and catch the bad guys.
This movie is heartwarming, but it also deals with some heavy-hitting thematic material. There are lots of explosions, weapons fire, and Emilio is shoved down a hill where he breaks his leg. Max attacks people, of course justified, but it is still a frightening scene, particularly for young children. As far as being a family movie is concerned, yes, the movie involves a dog, which tends to attract the younger members of the family, but this movie is not Benji or Air Bud. It deals with real life tragedy, corruption, and the underworld of a drug cartel. The scenes are highly emotionally charged and might be too much for younger members of the family. The movie has a strong theme of valor, honor, and the ultimate sacrifice.
The official rating for this movie is a PG, and by official standards there are none of the elements that make it fall clearly into a PG-13 category, but in terms of thematic material and the emotional intensity of the scenes, this movie is not recommended for children under the age of 10. This parental guide to the movies thinks that this is a well-done movie, but only with a word of caution to those that are younger members of the audience, or those who might be sensitive to the subject matter.