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
Steven Culp as Zachary Hayden
Dash Mihok as Trey Falcon
Bree Turner as Liz Knowles
Hannah Lochner as Jasmine ‘J.J.’ Presley
Claudette as Captain Jessie Presley
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.
“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.