American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
“Max” is a case of the tail wagging the movie. Thank goodness it does, however, since the tale itself leaves a bit to be desired.
Doggy derring-do has been a hallowed Hollywood tradition ever since the silent days when superstar canine Rin Tin Tin was disqualified from winning the first best-actor Oscar because of his non-human status even though he had earned the most votes.
But even time-tested genres like animal yarns need to learn new tricks. That is probably why this story about a trained military pooch that must learn to cope with civilian life after his handler is fatally wounded in Afghanistan is a mutt of sorts. It’s part faith-based family film, part teen coming-of-age melodrama with a hint of “American Sniper”-“The Hurt Locker” war-zone action tossed in.
That is all well and good. But matters go astray midway through when too much time is spent on a far-fetched subplot about a gang of Mexican arms dealers that obtains its contraband weapons from a corrupt American soldier. Lassie and her child companions often got into some dicey scrapes, but as much as I can recall, they usually didn’t result in much of a body count.