I had only moderate desire to see "Megan Leavey". I'm not a huge fan of animal movies (because they try too hard to be a tearjerker) and I'm not a huge fan of most military movies (because they try to hard to be patriotic). Still, I found myself at the movie because of my trusty MoviePass and the fact that there was nothing better out to see.
Luckily, the film manages to shy away from one of those two genre constraints. The film does not aim for tearjerking alone. Yes, there are sad moments, but they don't bring the movie to a halt because they feel quite natural. On the other hand, the film does come to a halt because it tries too hard to push its message. The first half of the film moves along pretty well, with some genuinely funny moments and some great suspense. This is because it plays out like a biopic. Around the halfway mark, this drastically changes and the film begins to feel like it is pushing Leavey's point. After realizing that the director's other film is the highly manipulative documentary "Blackfish", I fully understood. It seems as if the director made this film only to push her political message. Based on the second half, a more apt title would be "Hero Dog" or "Saving Rex". By doing this, the film loses a lot of its valuable character development.
In terms of its execution, the film is pretty solid. The cinematography is good, with the war sequences being especially well-shot. The training sequences are pretty good, too. The acting isn't phenomenal, but it gets done what needs to be done. All of the actors' delivery is fine, and Kate Mara does shine in a few moments. Otherwise, it's just good.
Overall, I think that the biggest problem that "Megan Leavey" has is that it is trying too hard. It sacrifices characters to push its message. So while its execution keeps it from being just another entry in the genre, its desperateness keeps it from achieving greatness.
Big Tuna's Rating: B
How Did I Watch It?: In theaters.
Had I Seen It Before?: No.
Would I Watch It Again?: Maybe.
I am a huge movie fan that wants to tell people about my very varying taste and opinion of film.