This deeply old-fashioned tale of a US Marine dog adjusting to life back in the civilian world isn’t as flag-wavingly cheesy as it might have been – but that doesn’t make it a good film. When his handler is killed in a Taliban ambush, Max the Belgian Malinois (nope, me neither, but apparently it’s similar to an Alsatian) is shipped home and adopted by the dead man’s family in North Carolina. Younger brother Justin (Josh Wiggins) is a teenage delinquent in the making, fighting with his dad (Thomas Haden Church) and hacking video games on the sly for a gang of local hoodlums. Will Max’s arrival help to knit the family together, and teach this troubled kid what it means to be a man? What do you think?
Chucking in Mexican gun-runners, BMX chases, Rottweiler attacks and the least convincing teenage romance in film history, this is a busy, moderately entertaining slice of family-friendly fluff. It’s flatly directed and functionally acted – as just Justin, Wiggins is just this side of obnoxious, while Church is outperformed by his own moustache as the dad – and the story never really goes anywhere interesting.
For British audiences, however, there’ll be one striking moment of cultural disconnect, as a Fourth of July parade sequence features a military marching band playing a stirring, brassy version of ‘Tubthumping’ by anarchist crusties Chumbawamba. Weird.