Firehouse Dog

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Rating: PG

Josh Hutcherson as Shane Fahey
Bruce Greenwood as Connor Fahey
Bill Nunn as Joe Musto
Scotch Ellis Loring as Lionel Bradford
Mayte Garcia as Pep Clemente
Teddy Sears as Terence Kahn
Arwen as Rexxx/Dewey the Dog
Frodo as Rexxx/Dewey the Dog
Rohan as Rexxx/Dewey the Dog
Stryder as Rexxx/Dewey the Dog
Steven Culp as Zachary Hayden
Dash Mihok as Trey Falcon
Bree Turner as Liz Knowles
Hannah Lochner as Jasmine “J.J.” Presley
Claudette Mink as Captain Jessie Presley

Special Features:
Dogster Montage
Dog Treats (5)
Loft Fire: Storyboard to Screen
True Hollywoof Story
Deleted Scenes
FMC Special Casting Rexx
Rex’s Poster Gallery
Theatrical Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language
Running Time: 111 Minutes

The following is from the official DVD description:

“Rex, Hollywood’s top K-9 star, gets lost and is reluctantly adopted by a young boy. His father, fire chief of a rundown station agrees to the adoption only if his defiant son takes care of the K-9. Little do they realize Rexx will not only bring them closer but also bring some much-needed faith back to the fire station.”

“Firehouse Dog” is rated PG for sequences of action peril, some mild crude humor and language.

The Movie:
Rexxx is the world’s biggest canine action movie star, which presumably means something more than it sounds like it does. Everyone certainly acts like it does. In a funk over a bad breakup with a Dalmatian (no, I’m not kidding), Rexxx screws up a stunt and plummets several thousand feet before landing safely in a tomato truck, which he rides into the lives of the local fire station, and the captain’s (Bruce Greenwood) young son Shane (Josh Hutcherson).

Like a lot of modern kids movies “Firehouse Dog” straddles a thin line between cartoon antics and real world problems, a tonal divide that kids won’t really notice but anyone over the age of 10 will. Most kids films end up as an excuse for the writers to turn out ill-conceived or developed material because, hey, the kids won’t notice, and “Firehouse Dog” is no exception. The humor is juvenile and puerile, which isn’t particularly necessary for a good kids film, though not unexpected. It’s a problem that carries over into the human characters, which are very thinly drawn and skewed to appeal to a kid’s perspective. As the nominal hero and straight man of the film, Bruce Greenwood generally comes off okay, but the supporting cast aren’t so lucky. An actor’s got to work of course, but as jobs go “Firehouse Dog” probably ranks somewhere just above a yogurt commercial, but not that far above.

Rexxx is a pampered movie star and it takes some time before he is able to adjust to life as a normal dog, but eventually he is able to bond to Shane, upset over recent fire related tragedies, and begin to enjoy living a normal life. It’s the old story of the famous person learning the simple joys of ordinary life. It’s not a particularly novel idea, but it’s a bit strange to try and tack a dog onto it. The only apparent reason why is to boost the cute factor so it will appeal more to its target audience.

There is a decent second story about loss tied into the film that’s actually got a fair amount of truth in it and is surprisingly dark for a film of this type, dealing with psychological issues kids might not be entirely familiar with. It’s interesting that filmmakers didn’t cut any corners here where they normally might be tempted to. It’s not enough to actually make the movie good, but it’s something.

The Extras:
There are actually quite a few bonus features on this DVD. First up is the “Dogster Montage”. They apparently had a contest to get your dog’s photo in the film. 200 were shown in the movie, and 200 were shown here. I suppose this is a good way to ensure selling 400 DVD’s, but unless you like looking at photos of strange dogs, you’ll be bored.

Next up is “Dog Treats”, or the featurettes. They cover the dog stunts, the American Humane Society’s role in movies, the firehouse set, guidelines for picking a dog that’s right for you, and other things. They’re all fairly short. This is followed by “Loft Fire: Storyboard to Screen”. It’s your standard comparison between the storyboards and the final film.

“True Hollywoof Story” is a parody of the E! True Hollywood Story and features Rexxx. It’s a fun idea but the actual execution of the featurette isn’t all that funny. You’ll also find three Deleted Scenes. One is an alternate opening to the movie featuring him doing a XXX/James Bond style snowboard stunt on a mountain. Next is a brief scene showing Rexxx’s trainer watching a dog do a trick. Finally, we see an alternate ending where Shane and Rexxx have a pillow fight and end up sharing their bed.

You’ll also find a Fox Movie Channel Special on Casting Rexx. They talk about finding the dogs, casting them, and the challenges of working with animals. It is followed by a public service announcement where Josh Hutcherson (who now has a post-pubescent deep voice) encourages pet owners to get their animals spayed and neutered. Rexxx happily barks and agrees. (I don’t think he knows what he was agreeing to.) Rounding things out is Rex’s Poster Gallery which shows all the fake movie posters in the film.

The Bottom Line:
“Firehouse Dog” is a fairly run of the mill kids film. Adults will be fairly bored by it, and how many kids like it depends on how much they like goofy animal tricks.