Firehouse Dog

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Can anyone dislike a "Firehouse Dog"? Even one as formulaic and hackneyed as this one? It truly is hard when your hero is a boisterous and lovable red-haired Irish terrier, or to be accurate four red-haired Irish terriers, who collectively play Rexxx, a Hollywood star who finds fulfillment as a working dog in a firehouse. The appeal here doesn't reach much beyond the canine set and K-9 grades. But that's broad enough to ensure medium-range family business. And a run in pet stores.

Rexxx is a Hollywood wonder dog who stars in such films as "The Fast and the Furriest" and "Jurassic Bark." He disappears from an airplane during his last death-defying stunt and lands in the back of a truck carrying tomatoes, which makes for one messy canine. The tomato-scented dog wanders into an unnamed town where, thanks to a fire, he finds himself attached to a down-on-its-luck fire station.

The company always is the last one to any fire, the station itself is threatened with termination and its widower captain (Bruce Greenwood) is having disciplinary issues with his 12-year-old son, Shane (Josh Hutcherson). The station is called Dogpatch. Of course it is.

In a matter of days, Rexxx, now named Dewey, cleans up Shane's messy room, forces him to do his homework, whips the fire company into shape, heals the family rift and exposes a major political scandal. That is a wonder dog.

It also is a wonder that director Todd Holland doesn't trust real dog tricks. There are plenty here, but mixed in are obviously phony ones accomplished with trick shots and editing. Claire-Dee Lim, Mike Werb and Michael Colleary's screenplay maximizes these dog stunts while barely managing a credible story. They do blow a chance, though, to explore the differences between real dogs and movie dogs, which might have made for good comedy.

The human co-stars, which include Bill Nunn as the station's aggressively bad cook, Mayte Garcia as its super-athletic beauty and Teddy Sears as the put-upon rookie, have little choice but to let the movie go to the dogs as the canines upstage them at every turn. The Toronto-based production is bright and efficient without ever rising above the ordinary.

FIREHOUSE DOG
20th Century Fox
Regency Enterprises presents a New Regency production
Credits:
Director: Todd Holland
Screenwriters: Claire-Dee Lim, Mike Werb, Michael Colleary
Producers: Michael Colleary, Mike Werb
Cinematographer: Victor Hammer
Production designer: Tamara Deverell
Music: Jeff Cardoni
Co-producer: Michael J. Maschio
Costume designer: Judith R. Gellman
Editor: Scott James Wallace
Cast:
Shane Fahey: Josh Hutcherson
Connor Fahey: Bruce Greenwood
Joe Musto: Bill Nunn
Lionel: Scotch Ellis Loring
Pep Clemente: Mayte Garcia
Terence Kahn: Teddy Sears
Zachary: Steven Culp
Running time -- 102 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
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