A Hollywood dog finds out what it's like to be a real hero, rather than just play one in the movies-and he's really cute at it.
Rexxx is a superstar dog in Hollywood with movies such as Jurassic Bark and The Fast and the Furrious on his plate. On the set of his latest movie, he is being a diva, refusing to come to the set because one of the spotted coats in his trailer reminds him of a snooty Dalmation who broke his heart. Eventually, Rexxx's people convince him he can outlive the Taco Bell Chihuahua dog's legacy if he performs this one great stunt. But, while diving out of an airplane, Rexxx forgets his parachute and lands in a truck full of tomatoes. He ends up running into a boy, Shane (Josh Hutcherson), who's really not into dogs. Shane's dad is a fire captain (Bruce Greenwood), and the boy's extended family is a group of well-meaning misfit firefighters at the Dogpatch Station. They're in constant competition with their rival fire station, and the city manager (Steven Culp) is warning the Dogpatch Station that they will soon be closing down. On top of it all, there are lots of mysterious fires breaking out around Dogpatch. Can Rexxx help save the day?
Hutcherson is an amiable child star. After his recent dramatic role in Bridge to Terabithia and as the older brother in Zathura, it's clear he's got a long career ahead of him. He comes across as clever and sensible while the world around him is often going haywire. And the young actor has a superb connection with Greenwood as his distant father. Also doing a fine job is Culp, as the city manager and Greenwood's best friend. The last time these two veteran character actors starred together was in Thirteen Days. Teddy Sears (TV's Ugly Betty) is particularly funny and charming as the fireman who keeps sliding on top of his fellow firefighters when going down the pole. But, of course, this is a dog's movie, and the four Irish setters used to play the lead pup do some pretty cool stunts and reaction shots. Rexxx comes across as delightfully personable, even though he smells bad.
Director Todd Holland certainly knows how to direct family stories after winning three Emmys for Malcolm in the Middle. This father-son story centers on a recent tragedy and neither of them deal well with it, instead becoming more and more distant from each other. Of course, the dog's intrusion brings them together, but the storyline cleverly dances a fine line between the stereotypical genres. Firehouse Dog has both laugh-out-loud moments as well as warm fuzzy, teary-eyed moments that feel very real. Of course, some of the absurd facial expressions and Matrix-like moves by the dog are computer generated, but it's not distracting--and not too obvious. The movie is fun for kids and parents to see together, especially if they have a dog at home.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.