[Screen It]


(2016) (Ben Winchell, Maria Bello) (PG-13)

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Action: A teenage boy discovers he has super powers and is hunted by the same alien forces that may have killed his father years earlier.
Max McGrath (BEN WINCHELL) is a 17-year-old boy who has moved eight times in his life with his widowed mom, Molly (MARIA BELLO). She swears their latest move will be their last, as they are moving back to the town and house they shared as a family with Max's late dad, Jim (MIKE DOYLE), before he tragically and mysteriously died when Max was a baby.

Max is a bit of a loner, having moved so many times. But he is immediately attracted to Sofia (ANA VILLAFANE), a pretty classmate who accidentally runs him over with her truck. At the same time, though, he is starting to exhibit strange supernatural powers. He seems to be able to channel pure energy, activate machines, deactivate cell phones and computers, and fire concentrated power blasts. He finds it tougher and tougher to control these abilities, which always seem to ignite when he gets emotional.

He attracts the attention of two separate individuals. The first is his father's former colleague, Dr. Miles Edwards (ANDY GARCIA), who may or may not hold the answer to the mystery of Max's father's death. The second is an amnesiac alien intelligence known as Steel (voice of JOSH BRENER), who seeks to merge with Max to create a powerful being that can battle a group of sinister and hostile aliens known as the "Ultralinks."

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
For movies that were not screened for the press prior to release, we provide only a few paragraphs of critical analysis.

Earlier in the year, the animated comedy "Sausage Party" ended with all the sentient fruits, vegetables, meats, and other groceries in a supermarket having an over-the-top, after-hours orgy. Well, if a bunch of DVDs waited until the local Best Buy closed to engage in a group encounter, "Max Steel" would likely be the unholy spawn of "Iron Man," "Spider-Man," "The Transformers," and "The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" all getting together. In short, it ain't pretty.

Based on the Mattel toy line and cartoon, "Max Steel" is a live-actioner targeted specifically at 12-year-old boys and the greedy, money-obsessed accountants and agents of Andy Garcia and Maria Bello. The obviously twenty-something Ben Winchell stars as teenage Max McGrath. As the film opens, he and his mom (Bello) have moved for the eighth time in 17 years after the mysterious death of his father, Jim (Michael Doyle), when Max was just a baby.

Mom promises this latest move will be the last as it is back to the house and town where they once lived as a family and Jim was a local scientist. Almost immediately, Max starts exhibiting supernatural powers. He can literally channel liquid energy and fire concentrated power blasts. Unfortunately, as an actor, Winchell channels prequel-era Hayden Christensen and struggles for much of the film to control his abilities and deliver believable dialogue.

He eventually gets a mentor/merchandise-friendly sidekick in Steel, a robotic alien intelligence who rips off Ellen DeGeneres' Dory character like you wouldn't believe right down to the faux-charming memory problems, swim-like movements, and sarcastic asides. Steel is voiced by Josh "Who?" Brener, and you'll almost immediately want to delete the CGI program that was used to add him into the film.

"Max Steel" is a mostly tedious affair, with the reluctant hero slowly getting spoon-fed information throughout about his and his family's past (there are at least four scenes where a character literally says, "We have a lot to talk about") all the while finding and losing his powers as the script calls for it. If you're of legal drinking, voting, or driving age, this one is NOT for you. I give it a 3 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed October 14, 2016 / Posted October 14, 2016

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