Kate Mara plays a young Marine corporal whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq in “Megan Leavey.” (Bleecker Street Media)

Kate Mara plays a young Marine corporal whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq in “Megan Leavey.” (Bleecker Street Media)

‘Megan Leavey’ heartwarming true story of soldier-K9 bond

The heartwarming true story of a soldier and a military dog is a sure-fire bet for a movie adaptation. It’s even more promising when the soldier is female.

“Megan Leavey” is the not-very-imaginative title of the movie, which tracks the course of a human-canine friendship.

When the film begins, Megan (played by Kate Mara) is a lost soul, a Yankees fan from a mixed-up home. She enlists in the Marines because she’s out of options — and her early days in the service aren’t promising, either.

Eventually she bonds with a bomb-sniffing German Shepherd named Rex, just in time for both of them to be sent to Iraq. Since the training and deployment of military K9 isn’t a common subject in movies, the procedural scenes here are absorbing.

Both handler and dog are wounded in combat. Eventually, Megan must fight the bureaucracy to gain custody of Rex after he is retired from service.

The appeal of canine bonding is as old as movies, and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite (who did the killer whale documentary “Blackfish”) isn’t about to miss a trick. This is a love story, but the friendly human soldier (Ramon Rodriguez) Megan flirts with is merely a bystander to the real romance.

Kate Mara does nicely at suggesting the ways Megan might be more suited to animals than humans. Early on we’re told that Megan doesn’t connect with people, although this isn’t developed much as the film goes on.

The sketching of Megan’s home life hints at a much bigger movie, but that isn’t developed either. With Edie Falco and Will Patton as her trashy mom and doofus stepdad, and Bradley Whitford as her father, we’ve got a gallery of interesting types and good actors with a minimal amount to do.

The movie takes no positions on war, or government, or anything that would limit the audience. At one point we see Colin Powell on TV talking about the weapons of mass destruction that are definitely in Iraq, but no further reference is made.

It’s a Hallmark card of a film, but competently done. Even if she is a Yankees fan — an obstacle to identifying with a character, for some of us — we root for Megan’s misfit to bond with her canine pal and secure a place in the world.

“Megan Leavey” (2 1/2 stars)

The true story of a Marine (Kate Mara) bonding with her bomb-sniffing German Shepherd in Iraq combat. It’s a Hallmark card of a movie, but Mara does nicely with the misfit role and the procedures surrounding the training of a K9 unit are actually pretty absorbing.

Rating: PG-13, for violence, language

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas, Woodinville, Cascade Mall

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