** (out of 5)
April 4, 2007
Josh Hutcherson as SHANE FAHEY
Bruce Greenwood as CONNOR FAHEY
Bill Nunn as JOE JUSTO
Scotch Ellis Loring as LIONEL BRADFORD
Mayte Garcia as PEP CLEMENTE
Teddy Sears as TERENCE KAHN
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Todd Holland
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Lately, studios have been more and more likely to pull screenings of their films from the critics. When it’s a horror film, it’s not a surprise. After all, critics tend to dis this genre on a routine basis. But when it’s a drama, comedy or family film that’s held back, it usually is a strong indicator that the movie isn’t’ all that good.
“Firehouse Dog” had only one screening in Ohio – in Cincinnati, which is the area where star Josh Hutcherson is from. So, outside of the loyal local fan base, few critics had a chance to pre-screen the film. Of course, it opened on a Wednesday, so we did have a chance to see it on our own dime before Friday.
So, in the interest of keeping up on all the current releases, I went to see the movie on opening day. I took the whole family, partly because my two sons had seen the heavy advertising for the film on all the children’s TV stations, but also because I wanted to gauge the reaction of kids seeing the film. My children are guinea pigs in that sense.
After seeing the film, my wife asked what I thought, and I said, “It was okay.” Of course, I said this with the same inflection a pissed off girlfriend will say “Fine” when you ask her if she’s alright. Not exactly a glowing recommendation, I know.
You see, “Firehouse Dog” was okay for what it was and what it was striving to be. It wasn’t great, and it didn’t eve hold up to the so-so family dog shows like last year’s “The Shaggy Dog” or the forgotten classic “Bingo.”
But it was okay for a kids’ movie. The dog as the main character was cute. There were plenty of fart jokes and dog burps to make my kids laugh. I know it’s not hard to please the young children crowd when you have an arsenal of gaseous humor, but at least it’s in there for the laughs – cheap or not. Finally, the story wasn’t overly complicated or inappropriate.
The plot follows a superstar mutt named Rexxx, who gets lost on a stunt gone wrong. He lands in the middle of the Midwest, where he hooks up with a teenage boy named Shane (Josh Hutcherson). Shane’s dad works as a firefighter in town, and Rexxx (under a new name of Dewey) becomes the mascot of the firehouse, inspiring the city and the public to breathe new life in the struggling station.
Of course, as the bored dad watching the film, I was understandably drawn to Mayte Garcia as fellow firefighter Pep Clemente. While she had a small part, she gave me something more interesting to look at than the flatulent dog. She fit well into the kids movie, which seems a bit odd when I checked out her credentials later to learn she’s Prince’s ex and has been engaged to Tommy Lee.
Ultimately, “Firehouse Dog” is your basic boy-and-his-dog story. Normally, the dog’s cuteness is enough to carry the film, but Rexxx (ore more specifically the four dogs playing him) is surprisingly uncompelling. However, the meat of the story falls on his shoulders.
Hutcherson is a fine actor, but he’s not given much to work with. When the story does fall off the dog’s focus and lands on Hutcherson, it clicks, but in the end the film doesn’t know whose story it is supposed to be.