Release Date:  April 4, 2007
Rating:  PG (for action peril, some mild crude humor)
Genre:  Family/Comedy/Drama
Run Time:  111 min.
Director:  Todd Holland
Actors:  Josh Hutcherson, Bruce Greenwood, Joe Musto, Mayte Garcia, Dash Mihok, Steven Culp, Bree Turner

Proving that it takes far more than a cute pooch to make an entertaining (and worthwhile) family flick, Firehouse Dog tries too hard to be all things to all people. So hard, in fact, that it doesn’t do anything it’s trying to – comedy, drama or Hollywood satire – very well.

The story starts off with a ridiculously pampered dog named Rexxx, the canine star of popular box office fare like The Fast and the Furriest and Jurassic Bark. A red carpet favorite, Rexxx’s widespread appeal, complete with his gorgeous, side-swept curls make him tabloid fodder, especially when he gets blown off by a beautiful Dalmatian who sports Bo Derek’s famous cornrows.

But during a movie stunt gone horribly awry, Rexxx is feared dead when his parachute fails to open as he jumps out a plane (what no stunt double or CGI magic … what’s the deal?). Fortunately, a passing tomato truck breaks his fall, even if he loses his trademark curls (a doggie toupee no less) in the process.

Without a place to call home, Rexxx (wearing a prop tag that says "Dewey") wanders into an unnamed city where he eventually runs into Shane (Bridge to Terabithia actor Josh Hutcherson), the son of widowed, local fire chief Connor Fahey (Bruce Greenwood).

While most 12-year-olds would hardly consider finding a dog an inconvenience, Shane and Dewey don’t exactly hit it off initially. See, Shane has plenty of issues of his own.

Instead of concentrating on his studies, Shane spends the majority of his days unsupervised, playing video games and skateboarding instead of going to school. And since Connor is so busy with work, he doesn’t have much of a connection with his son. Even when Connor tries to take Shane’s video game system away as a punishment for cutting class, Shane’s lack of respect for his father is quickly revealed when he reclaims it as soon as his dad’s back on the job.

But a couple of cool skateboarding tricks later, Shane finds the connection he isn’t getting at home when he discovers that Dewey isn’t your average dog. And before long, Dewey is becoming a celebrity (not to mention the mascot for for Connor's fire station) for much worthier feats after he helps rescue a firefighter from a burning factory.

Unfortunately, though, the bond between Dewey and Shane – or the growing closeness between Shane and his father later on – isn’t explored further. Instead, the screenplay quickly swerves in another direction, segueing into an unconvincing family drama, and later, a cartoonish mystery that’s straight out of the Scooby Doo playbook.

Therein lies the greatest flaw of Firehouse Dog. While it could’ve been an entertaining, heartwarming movie about a family being brought closer together, it settles for a lowbrow humor and an unconvincing plot that’ll likely leave the younger audience confused by this mixed breed of a movie.

AUDIENCE:  6 and up

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Connor drinks a couple of beers while watching a football game. Alcohol is served at a party honoring Dewey’s heroism.
  • Language/Profanity:  A couple of very minor profanities. Also, there’s some instances of rude, scatological humor. The worst of which is where Rexxx/Dewey defecates into a stew prepared for the local firehouse’s dinner.
  • Sex/Nudity: None.  But in a scene played for laughs, Rexxx’s former owner brings three poodles home for Rexxx “to have fun with” on a bed. But Rexxx is too distracted by everything going on to take advantage of the opportunity.
  • Violence:  Several scenes take place while the firemen are putting out fires, so there’s plenty of dramatic moments as people are rescued. 
  • Thematic material:  There’s discussion of death and loss as Shane’s mother passed away when he was very young. But fresh in Shane’s mind is the recent loss of his uncle Marc, something he talks about repeatedly.