In one of my favorite films, The Shawshank Redemption, there is a scene in which Andy Dufresne sits down at the lunch table with the other convicts just after he has been released from two weeks in solitary confinement. He says it was the easiest time he ever spent because he had the music of Mozart in his head and heart to keep him company. When Red, played by Morgan Freeman, says it doesn’t seem to make sense to him to think of music in prison, Andy replies, “Here is where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don’t forget.” Red: “Forget?” Andy: “Forget that there are places in the world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside they can’t get to, they can’t touch.”

Max is a movie like that. Every pre-teen boy in America ought to go see Max. In fact every teen should, too. Oh, OK, every male, living in a world of the approval of same-sex marriage, murders in church Bible studies and videos of heads being lopped off on the beach, should see it, too, because Max reminds us that there are places in the world where dogs are faithful and true, where there are teen-age boys who need to find themselves and can, where there are fathers who need to learn how to talk to their sons and finally get up the courage to do so.

Max is far from a technically fine movie, but if there is another movie around today where the value system is as honorable and yet the relationships are portrayed as realistically as they are in Max, I wish you would show it to me. This story is one of friendships of all kinds, of budding teen-age love, of crime chases, bad guys and good guys—in short, while it stretches credulity to the breaking point in a lot of places, Max is a movie that will warm your heart without isolating your head.

For film history buffs, Max is also a throwback movie to the days of Rin Tin Tin, when “Rinty” ruled the box office in the early days of cinema. (The biggest box office star of the 1920’s? Rudolf Valentino? Not on your life. Rin Tin Tin. Look it up.) The star of this movie, Max, is a military dog, like Rin Tin Tin trained to sniff out arms and explosives on the battlefield. When his master is killed, he is sent back home and bonds with his master’s younger brother, changing both of their lives, and the lives of the boy’s father, mother and friends, forever.

Max lacks any real reference to faith, but that doesn’t keep it from being an inspiration toward the good. Its performances are less than stellar, and its story is far-fetched, but take your young boys to see it. They’ll love it.

Drew Trotter

July 1, 2015

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