I’ve said in the past and still believe that Josh Hutcherson will be a pretty good adult actor if he chooses to go down that path. I liked his work in Little Manhattan and recently finished watching him in Bridge to Terabithia, but then he comes back and makes films like Firehouse Dog, which seem to flush away a lot of that goodwill in my opinion. He doesn’t try at all and becomes the typical sweet kid, rather than the intellectual who acts larger than his shoes.
Written by Mike Werb (Curious George) and Claire-Dee Lim and directed by Todd Holland (whose main director claims were directing fair shares of episodes for the shows Malcolm in the Middle and The Larry Sanders Show), the film centers around Rexxx, with three x’s, who is apparently a 21st century version of Benji, Old Yeller, or any other movie dog you’d like to slot in. During a stunt for his latest film, Rexxx accidentally falls from an airplane and lands in a truck full of tomatoes, so he doesn’t die of course. The movie would have to be called something other than Firehouse Dog if that were the case. But he does manage to get to New York, where Shane (Hutcherson) finds him and wants initially to get rid of him, before he finds out what the dog can do, despite the objections of his father (Bruce Greenwood, The Sweet Hereafter). But he grows to become part of the family more and more.
However, enter Trey (Dash Mihok, The Thin Red Line), who is Rexxx’s handler, and wants to bring him back to Los Angeles to make more movies. And so, for the next hour and a half, the quest begins for Rexxx to find his true home and calling, torn between a child he loves, and a Hollywod support staff that wants to bring him back safe and sound for his next movie. Does it matter whether or not I missed any real character intricacy? Not really, I mean, we all know how it’s going to end, so we have to focus on the execution. And the execution of the story is tired and lazy. I was more interested with what was going around me in my house than in front of me, until both situations bored me and I ordered sushi for all. Mmm, sushi…
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround is fairly active, all things considered. Lots of low end activity and surround work, and everything sounds crisp and clear. Or maybe that’s the new receiver I got talking.
1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. However in the midst of sending Upcomingdiscs product for review, the copy that we have appears to be of unfinished quality, with a bunch of pixilation and artifacts through the feature, along with an occasional studio watermark. Scores (and comments) will be updated pending receipt of final product.
There’s quite a few extras here, but all of them are quick and fairly unsubstantial, and as a result are disappointing. First off, there were some dogs used as part of an end credit reel who won some sort of contest, and that reel is separated and extended. I used to have a dog, so it’s kind of cool, but I don’t have one now, so this is kind of boring. Next is a series of one to two minute looks at the film which equate to webisodes if one wanted to say so. They cover some of the stunts, the presences of the Humane Society on set, and some more production-centered things like a tour of one of the sets and some friendships among cast members. Following that is a four minute storyboard to screen comparison of one of the scenes in the movie, followed by a played for laughs look at the furry star of the film. Following that is a more traditional making of look at the film that discusses the story and the production of the film, including some on set footage at the same time. A PSA with Hutcherson follows, along with some deleted scenes. A stills gallery and some trailers round the disc out.
In the midst of Air Bud, or other recent dog movies where they have an almost idiot savant knack for playing sports or acting in movies, Firehouse Dog is one of the more tired antics around. The performances are stale and the story is bland, and altogether you’re simply not missing much of what’s going on. It may be good for the kids, but on its own, you can pass.