Rated: PG for action violence, peril, brief language and some thematic elements. Reviewed by: Frank Release date: June 28, 2015 Released by: Warner Brothers
First let's establish, this is not a film for kids. The PG rating clearly should be PG-13. There is murder and violence in the air through out the script. It is not Lassie. The theme carried here is the effect of violence from war on both troops and in this case the war dogs as well.
Max looses his master Lyle Wincott (Robbie Amell) in battle as Lyle's friend Tyler (Luke Kleintank) stands by fearful to get into the action. That action in war defines the character of Tyler who brings crimes he committed over seas to the United States when he returns. Early on we expect a challenge between Max and the coward.
The story moves on two levels: the inclusion of Max in to the Wincott family particularly with the younger brother Josh (Justin Wincott) and Tyler's reemergence with the family as he works with cartel leader (Edgar Arreola) to sell guns he has stolen from the U.S. army while serving over seas. He is a true villain, a man without courage and a crook working with drug gangs from Mexico.
As expected the family struggles from the loss of their son, Thomas Hayden Church as the father constantly challenges Josh as he internalizes for periods of time. Lauren Graham as Pamela the mother has a quiet part working to bring peace to both father and the surviving son. Max both adds to the problem and the solution.
Josh and Max with friend Chuy (Dejon LeQuake) out fox the bad guys by carrying out some interesting actions generally in wooded areas. These scenes are filled with action the they give the dog a chance to overcome his fears and to show just how strong and capable he is. There is of course a fight between Max and a couple of Pit Bulls in which as expected Max cleanly wins. That is as close to Lassie as the film gets.
For adults the film can be an important view of what soldiers and their war dogs face when they return to civilian life. The darkness of war imprints in their mind and it takes time to recover, more time than recovering from physical wounds.