Lake Shore Entertainment, Globe Road Entertainment, and director Oliver Daly presents the newest film to feature the relationship between man and dog with the movie A.X.L.. Does this film find its cinematic human / canine bond or does the movie’s bites off more than it can chew?
Synopsis: A.X.L. is a top-secret, robotic dog created by the military to help protect tomorrow’s soldiers. Code named by the scientists who created him, A.X.L. stands for Attack, Exploration, Logistics, and embodies the most advanced, next-generation artificial intelligence. After an experiment gone wrong, A.X.L. is discovered hiding alone in the desert by a kind-hearted outsider named Miles, who finds a way to connect with him after activating his owner-pairing technology. Together, the two develop a special friendship based on trust, loyalty and compassion. Helping Miles gain the confidence he’s been lacking, A.X.L. will go to any length to protect his new companion, including facing off against the scientists who created him and who will do anything to get him back. Knowing what is at stake if A.X.L. is captured, Miles teams up with a smart, resourceful ally named Sara to protect his new best friend on a timeless, epic adventure for the whole family. (Global Road Entertainment)
Starring: Alex Neustaedter, Becky G., and Alex MacNicoll
Writer: Oliver Daly
Director: Oliver Daly
Rating: PG (Canada/United States)
Running Time: 100mins
Making his directorial debut, Daly directs what was sort of a passion project for him. In 2015, Daly released a short film titled Miles, a 5-minute short film that is very similar to this film. To his credit, he does decent job at making the jump from short film to a theatrical motion picture, crafting a very interesting tale that shares some familiar themes. This, of course, leads into talking about the true star / scene stealer of the movie, which is A.X.L. himself. To be honest, he was really the only character worth caring about. While the movie isn’t truly grand and may be overlooked, at least Daly and his filmmaking succeed in making A.X.L. find its emotional heart in robotic canine and the bond he shares with Miles Hill (Neustaedter).
In terms of presentation, A.X.L. delivers an adequate endeavor. Yes, the movie doesn’t have a huge production budget so Daly can’t afford big lavishing set pieces and expansive locales. Thankfully, the movie uses its budget smartly. Even the film’s score, composed by Ian Hultquist, was nothing superbly great. Additionally, the film’s effects in bringing A.X.L. to life, using both practical and CG visuals are pretty good. Of course, the movie doesn’t break the bank in creating said animal in a realistic way, but its enough to make us feel something.
Unfortunately, A.X.L. does falter under its own premise and becomes a far cry from what it could’ve been. Perhaps the one reason for this is the fact the movie’s plot is utterly derivate and purely vanilla. Daly’s pulls “double duty” for the feature by penning this film’s script based on his short film. The problem with his script was that it lacks both substance and dramatic poise for such a motion picture. Daly’s script only scratches the surface on the ideas and plot points that A.X.L.’s story has to offer, which makes what plays out in the movie feel extremely clunky and derivate of better movies. It also doesn’t help that the script produces some terribly / cliché dialogue lines throughout, making almost every line in the movie laughable and almost wooden.
A.X.L. also lacks a sort of “pizzazz”. The film’s narrative script lacks depth and substance, devoiding it of any sort of cinematic quality. There’s not much visual flair, “spunk”, or a whole lot excitement to be had which doesn’t help its entertainment value. The film did have to work with the confines of a very small budget, but that doesn’t mean that the movie can’t be thrilling or exciting. There’s just nothing much that’s extraordinary or visually riveting that movie makes, besides feeling for a semi-sentient robotic dog…and that’s pretty much it.
Some of the cast were okay but do little to bring their respective characters to life beyond their cookie cutter onset personas. Leading the charge as the film’s main protagonist character is Neustaedter as Miles Hill. He was mostly boring as a character and his performance comes off as wooden for most of the film, never seeming to come into his own and could’ve been easily played by someone else. His interactions with A.X.L. are the only time when he comes alive and the on-screen relationship between him and A.X.L. is where he shines. Behind him is singer/actress Becky G as Sara Reyes, a fellow teenager who catches the eye of Miles. She was okay but there’s really nothing much to her beyond her initial setup beyond her just being the love interest for the main character. The on-screen chemistry between her and Neustaedter is extremely feigned and weak, which makes their romance feel very clunky and almost shoehorned / forced. The absolute worst character in the entire film would have to be Sam Fontaine, played by Alex MacNicoll. Why was that the case? Well, it’s a combination of both bad acting and the character being written in a super annoying, face-punching way.
Director Oliver Daly’s latest film sees his 2015 “proof-of-concept” short film come to life in a full-length theatrical motion picture. Unfortunately, beyond its emotional core of a boy and his dog, the majority of the film is completely derivate and bland, ranging from story that lacks depth (and substance), laughable / wooden dialogue, a mostly mixed bag of characters (and acting), all devoid of of “spunk” and “pizazz”. It goes without saying that this movie is a definite “skip it”. In the end, Daly’s short film is worth a glance, but A.X.L., the feature length version of that film, is mostly a forgettable tale of a boy and his robotic dog that will fade into the background of the 2018 movie releases.
2.4 Out of 5 (Skip It)
If interested, check out my movie blog @ Jason’s Movie Blog for my reviews of current movies.