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Megan Leavey

Every entertainment magazine I read sang the praises of Wonder Woman because it was a superhero movie starring a woman, directed by a woman. I don’t necessarily think that’s what you should praise a movie for, but I’ll certainly point out that this is another movie with a female protagonist, directed by a woman — Gabriela Cowperth, in her debut feature (she’s better known for her “fake” documentary Blackfish, which basically sank Sea World).

Some might call this another Lifetime movie, but I’m a dog lover, so it worked for me. My wife isn’t the biggest dog lover, but she enjoyed the movie, too. It certainly got the bad taste out of my mouth from A Dog’s Purpose.

This is based on a true story. Megan Leavey (Kate Mara) is in a depression after the death of her best friend. We’ll find out later she feels partly responsible. After getting fired from a job she cared little about, and with a broken family she doesn’t care much about — she joins the Marines. And after a boot camp and graduation scene reminiscent of An Officer and a Gentleman….she brings her partying ways into the Marine Corp. After some public drunkenness and punishment that includes cleaning up kennels and dog poo, she seems fascinated with the idea of training the bomb-sniffing dogs. Perhaps she’s yearning for the bonding she sees developing between human and canine.

There’s an aggressive German Shepherd named Rex that injured one trainer. The Gunnery Sergeant (played poorly by Common, who I wish was in less movies these days) assigns Rex to Megan and it’s a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, they’re quickly shipped to Hell — the front lines in Iraq.

It’s not just the dog she’s fallen for. There’s a flirtatious relationship she has with a Mets fan (she’s a diehard Yankees fan). He’s played by Ramon Rodriguez (Need for Speed), who reminds me of a young Esai Morales. They have nice chemistry, and I appreciated that the script didn’t get too cheesy or unrealistic in this affair. They felt like real Marines that ribbed each other and their friends, in a way you imagine soldiers to act.

It was also nice that Cowperthwaite didn’t go over-the-top with the gory, violent war scenes. It makes this a movie you can bring the family to. It’s like a PG version of American Sniper meets Land of Mine, and for lovers of military stories — shouldn’t be missed.

There’s great supporting work from Edie Falco (The Sopranos) and Bradley Whitford (Get Out) as her divorced parents. Falco’s character isn’t fleshed out as much as she should be. We get the fact that she’s white trash and insensitive, but it’s not done as well as it should be.

I laughed at the flirtatious nature in which a loofah was talked about. I hadn’t heard anything like that since Bill O’Reilly’s phone call to an intern.

There were a couple of really powerful scenes. One of them is when Megan is being told why she can’t adopted the dog. It wasn’t overwritten, and you could see the points being made. That doesn’t mean things aren’t predictable, but it still works.

The pacing in the picture is a bit off, and the shaky-cam gets annoying when it’s overused. The movie could’ve used a better narrative, too. But it earned its tears, and it’s a must see for dog lovers.

This gets 3 stars out of 5.