Zoey to the Max

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Zoey to the Max Movie Poster Image
Tale of foster kid and dog marred by amateurish filmmaking.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 86 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

True families stick together through good and bad times.  

Positive Role Models & Representations

A child who has been overlooked and unable to find a good home is rewarded for her good intentions, bravery, and capability. A caring couple without kids reaches out to a foster child, offering a good home and loving parenting. 

Violence

Two mean-spirited kids try to scare the movie's heroine by taking her on a wild car ride. Several dog-napping attempts are made. In the first unsuccessful encounter, the bumbling thieves lunge for the dog and kick out at him. Later, they roughly grab the dog in front of his young owner. A climactic car chase ends in a brief confrontation between police and the bad guys. 

Sex
Language

A few name-calling incidents: "crap," "snot nose," "freak show."

Consumerism

Visible brands: Ford, Axis, Hanjin.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Zoey to the Max is the story of a 13-year-old foster girl badly in need of a loving family. Through no real fault of her own, she ends up in a town distant from the city in which she's been living and encounters a childless couple willing to take a chance on her. Zoey's integration into the family is suddenly at risk when Max, the family dog -- a purebred champion -- is dog-napped while Zoey is alone with him. A few scenes show bumbling criminals roughly handling the dog, and Zoey is in mild peril as she attempts to find Max and bring him home. There are a few name-calling incidents: "crap," "snot nose," "freak show." Caution: Much of the film is shot with a hand-held camera (often called "shaky cam"), which could result in motion sickness for those kids and/or adults who are susceptible to queasiness and nausea.

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What's the story?

A series of misadventures, not all of her own making, unexpectedly finds 13-year-old Zoey (appealing beginner Cassidy Mack) in the best foster home of her life in ZOEY TO THE MAX. Her new "parents" (Amy Smart and Grant Bowler), along with their wonderful show dog Max, become the family Zoey always wished for. And she makes tentative steps to trust and believe that she's at last where she's meant to be -- but nothing is as easy as it seems. Two small-time crooks, hoping to score both points and cash with master criminal Big Red, are intent upon dog-napping Max. Big Red has his own champion dog and wants Max out of the way. Zoey watches in horror as the thugs seize Max while the two are alone. Already deeply attached to Max, and sure that, as in the past, she'll be held responsible, Zoey takes off after the culprits. With only her new best friend as an ally, Zoey heads into dangerous territory, determined to save Max and herself from an uncertain future.

Is it any good?

A few nice performances from Amy Smart and Grant Bowler and a good start for newcomer Cassidy Mack can't overcome the overall amateurish production here. Since Miss Mack has been in the foster system herself and has started a nonprofit foundation ("Love Gives Chances") to inspire other kids like her, audiences might have had a built-in rooting interest for the project. Unfortunately, director Jim Valdez was looking for "artistry" and forgot the fundamentals of storytelling. Simplicity was sacrificed for dizzying hand-held shots, rapid-fire editing, odd angles, out-of-focus moments, and general discomfiting visuals. Then, when you consider the grossly overplayed villains, the absurdity of the dog-stealing plot, the inability of the team to provide any suspense or cohesion during the film's climax, and the predictability of it all, there's truly nothing to recommend.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about certain camera and editing techniques used in this movie. Find out about some or all of the following: "hand-held" shooting; extreme closeups (ECU); camera "tilts"; "soft focus"; and "fast-cutting." What do you think the filmmakers were trying to accomplish by using these techniques? Did they distract from or help the story?

  • Zoey had a lot to learn about being a member of a caring family. How did her past influence her behavior and judgment when she had to make a decision? In her search for Max, what might she have done differently so her new parents weren't as worried and upset?

  • Was Zoey right when she said "I'm bad luck"? Why, or why not? 

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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