maxCanine On Patrol
Stars: Josh Wiggins, Thomas Haden Church, Dejon LaQuake, Robbie Amell, Lauren Graham, Luke Kleintank, Mia Xitlali and Jay Hernandez
Director: Boaz Yakin
Scriptwriters: Sheldon Lettich and Boaz Yakim
Composer: Trevor Rabin
Cinematographer: Stefan Czapsky
MGM/Warner Brothers
Rating: PG but with war violence and themed material, could be PG 13
Running Length: 112 minutes
Bring hankie. No, this is not another “Mad Max” movie. Instead, this film titled “Max” is about a U. S. Marine military dog with loyalty and a will to do what is asked of him. Following the idea that military dogs can be returned to private life and lead satisfactory lives, director Boaz Yakin co-wrote a story that is a composite of several war stories. Previous to the Clinton Administration, it was thought that military dogs could not be retrained and after service, were put down. Clearer heads now prevail, and dogs such as the fictional Max are still with us. They are allowed to be adopted by their handlers or other families. The dog in this movie is a Belgian Mamois, a smaller version of what we would call a German Shepherd or Alsatian. The Belgian Mamois are aggressive dogs and not prone to the hip problems of other breeds. Starring with Max in this movie is Kyle Amell (cousin to Stephen Amell from “Arrow”) as Max’s first handler, and Josh Wiggin, Kyle’s little brother back home in the States. Thus the story begins.
Afghanistan is not a pleasant place to be in wartime. Kyle (Robbie Amell) does well with his military dog, Max (played by six dogs, mostly one named Carlos) and they do the work efficiently. The unexpected happens and Kyle is killed, while Max is so distrait, he is deemed unfit for service. Eventually, he ends up in Texas with Kyle’s family. The job of taking care of the dog is given to Justin (Josh Wiggins) who really doesn't know what to do with Max, especially when the dog shows some signs of fear. However, with the help of friends, Chuy (Dejon LaQuake) and Chuy’s cousin, Carmen (Mia Xitlali), progress in handling Max is made. Carmen turns out to be something of a “dog whisperer,” and her dogs are Chihuahua’s. There is a relationship problem between Justin and his dad (Thomas Haden Church), with Mom (Lauren Graham) trying to help. Dad is wounded former military and has a rough attitude. When the late Kyle’s former soldier friends come to visit, things get interesting in the town and not always in a good way. 
“A boy and his dog” is the heart of many books and films and the same here with Justin and Max. When a bond is formed between canine and human, it does last forever, even though one human disappears, the replacement smells a lot like the missing one. People with pets can relate, no matter the species. The bond between father and son can be strong or strained and sometimes it takes a third “person” to start the process. The acting is fine, especially the three teens and Robbie Amell as Kyle. The villains have their own agenda.
The scenes of war show what happens away from one’s homeland, and what happens when one returns and no one understands, as with the father, or no one can speak your language, as with a dog. Friends come in handy, especially when they have unusual talents. There is a touching tribute to a fallen soldier that involves Max, and as I have written at the beginning of this review, bring hankie. Heroes can have two legs or four.
Copyright 2015 Marie Asner