DISCLAIMER: I saw this movie at a Drive-In movie theater, waiting to see another movie. It wasn’t on purpose.
Propaganda: (n.) information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
Do you like dogs? How about the army? Do you like propaganda shoved down your throat? Hate Mexicans? Think Michael Vick shouldn’t have been convicted? Well, then Max is the movie for you.
Co-written and directed by Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans), Max is the simple tale of a boy and his dog, his deceased older brother’s war dog. The plot isn’t very difficult to grasp. Justin Wincott (Josh Wiggins), is your average American teenage boy, growing up in the Lone Star State, Texas. Veering into the troublesome borders of delinquency, Justin changes when his older brother Kyle (Robbie Amell), a U.S. Marine fighting in Afghanistan, is shadily killed in action, and his war dog Max is shipped home to live with Justin. Family life with his father (Thomas Haden Church) and mother (Lauren Graham) isn’t great, with Justin only being seen in his brother’s shadow. Thankfully, with Justin trying to bond with Max, who has severe PTSD, the family is brought together. However, this quickly evolves into a convoluted plotline involving Mexican baddies, hostage situations, heavy amounts of stereotypical racism mixed with clichéd patriotic themes, and a very unpatriotic convict. We learn that Kyle’s fellow Marine partner, (now ex-Marine) Tyler is involved with the trading of illegal weaponry to Mexicans, who are smuggling them over the border! And who can save the day? Obviously a dog and kids on their bikes.
There’s an old saying, “Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.” But what about a bike? Because Justin and his gridiron crew, a young Latin American boy named Chuy (portrayed in the most racist and stereotypical way possible), and Chuy’s cousin and Justin’s love interest, Carmen, decide: To heck with it! We have bikes! We can take on bad guys who have military-grade weapons, including an RPG, with our dog Max. And our bikes.
Do they do it?
Yes. Yes they do. They ride the heck out of those bikes.
Does the RPG get shot?
Yes. Yes it does. A bridge blows up.
Are there deaths?
Yes. Yes there are. Mexican deaths.
That includes the deaths of two rottweilers that Max personally fights and throws into a river. But who doesn’t love a good dog fight… It’s for the kids!
Right off the bat you can see the crowd Yakin was trying to appeal to. This one’s for the conservative family man. And, of course, the family. Bring your wife and kids, and we’ll trick them into thinking they’re seeing the touching story about a boy and his dog, but really we’re gonna’ brainwash your kids into blindly supporting their military! Mexicans are bad! Save America! The story is heavily themed with the idea that, except for Chuy, the bad guys aren’t the ones we’re fighting in the war, but any foreign identity and anybody who helps them. In fact, the only time you actually see anything to do with war, aside from the weaponry being smuggled, is at the very beginning of the film, when Max and Kyle are introduced. Racism and propagandic ideas aside, there are far too many plot holes for this to be a good movie, and the acting is shabby as well. In fact, I found the best actor in this film to be Carlos, the Belgian Malinois that played Max.
I can almost look past the plot, kids taking on guns with their bikes, the senseless and unnecessary deaths in a movie made for kids, and the terrible acting, but I couldn’t find myself not criticizing the amount of exaggerated patriotism almost desperately thrown into this movie. And racism. I was surprised with how much this movie got away with. It’s dripping with supposed conservative values, a hearty amount of nudging toward the Christian faith shown by the excessive imagery of the cross in the home of the Wincotts, blatant stereotyping toward the Latin-American and Mexican community, and the propaganda. My God, the propaganda. There is a two-and-a-half minute soldier/war dog training video thrown into the middle of this movie. It’s during a sympathetic scene, no less, when Max is being taken away by the pound, so your heartstrings are already being tugged at. I was surprised that at the end of the thoughtfully-placed compilation, big bold text stating, “Support our Troops!” didn’t flash across the screen.
Don’t get me wrong; I love this country and fully support our troops, but I am annoyed when a movie made for kids is nothing but manipulative and shameless advertising for the military. At the end of this movie, when all’s said and done, Justin and his family walking into the sunset after defeating the baddies with their bikes and a dog, there is a real “Support our Troops” compilation video playing not in, but before the credits. Images of soldiers scroll across the screen while a country song states how great America and the American forces are. So if you want to actually see the credits, you have to sit through this two-minute video first. Smart.
Max is not a good movie. It appeals to a specific crowd and is nothing but über-patriotic themes and stereotyping this country’s neighbors. However, if you go in with the mindset to watch it for what a really is—a poor attempt at a kid’s movie and a sneaky attempt at propaganda—you could maybe have a good time with it. There’s a small chance.
If there’s one thing to take away from this film, it’s that you can take on the cartel with a bike. Even on the movie’s official website, you can see that beautiful bike, silhouetted next to Max.
Always bring a bike.
Cover photo: http://max-themovie.com/