Mistakenly sold as a family comedy, Todd Holland
's uninspired Firehouse Dog throws most of its well-chewed bones to the youngest (read: most immature) of patrons and treats ticket-purchasing parents like hydrants.
Because this old Dog is unwilling to learn a single new trick, the film follows a tired kid-meets-canine formula to the letter. Movie star Rexxx (played by a series of scruffy terriers) lives a life of luxury until, during a high-flying stunt, he parachutes into a small town and befriends Shane (Josh Hutcherson
), the local troublemaker and son of fire chief Connor Fahey (Bruce Greenwood
). A tacked on subplot involving a string of mysterious arson attacks provides no serious drama since the only two adults in the cast not wearing firefighting gear end up being the villains. Article continues below
Dog has all of the problems you would expect. The actors over-emote to compensate for the fact they're sharing scenes with an animal. Greenwood escapes with his dignity intact. And Hutcherson continues to dial down the enthusiasm he showed in Zathura. The young actor was somber in Bridge to Terabithia
and comes off as distant here.
A veteran television director, Holland adopts the same warped sense of family values he applied to multiple episodes of Malcolm in the Middle. He clings to the assumption that kids adore toilet humor, so Rexxx adds a special ingredient to a pot of chili, passes gas repeatedly, and urinates on an open flame. When the dog burps in Shane's face, the boy waves his arms and screams about "the mouth farts." Everyone on screen gets a good chuckle when Capt. Fahey puts his son on "dog duty" (say it out loud).
If this crude humor is your cup of Alpo, by all means, indulge. You'll find that the rest of Dog is a predictable morality story about friendship and responsibility. These good intentions once belonged solely to Lassie, Yeller, and dogs of this ilk, but with one major difference. Those classic canines sold their adventures without the assistance of digital cheats and wire tricks. Dog uses modern technology to cut corners, giving Rexxx artificial facial expressions for emotional impact. You'd never see bogus reaction shots from Benji. I guess that makes him top dog.