It was during the scene in which the titular character defecates into a stew prepared for the local firehouse’s dinner where I thought, ya know, this isn’t harmless family entertainment anymore; it’s a declaration of war on intelligence.
Rexxx is a canine action film star who loses his way during a parachuting stunt gone horribly wrong. Wandering around an unfamiliar town, the dog meets up with young Shane (Josh Hutcherson, “Bridge to Terabithia”), a lonely, withdrawn son of a workaholic firefighter (Bruce Greenwood). Adopting this special dog, Shane learns quickly that Rexxx enjoys life around the firehouse and the job of helping those in danger. As the two bond, a mysterious arsonist threatens to overwhelm the firehouse, leaving Rexxx and Shane in charge of saving the day.
Certainly, “Firehouse Dog” will have its fans; audiences and critics who will defend this rubbish as a nontoxic diversion to baby-sit kids for two hours. Perhaps I shouldn’t dig deeper than the surface with a production of intentional mediocrity like this, but when the film pushes on your brain with a ceaseless parade of stupidity, a silent scream just isn’t enough to wipe the film from memory.
“Firehouse Dog” is an assortment of insider Hollywood jokes churned into a thin paste for mass consumption (Rexxx stars in films like “The Fast and the Furriest”), filled with fart humor and belches (referred to as “mouth farts” in the picture), and it buttresses the madcap with a breezy mystery plot straight from a Scooby-Doo cartoon. Oh, it’s a terrible film, but the picture wouldn’t sting nearly as much if it was helmed by any other director than Todd Holland.
Holland isn’t exactly Welles, especially in his early career (“Krippendorf’s Tribe,” “The Wizard”). Retreating to the comforts of weekly television, he was a guiding force behind “Malcolm in the Middle,” a show that, for at least two seasons, was one of the best kid-oriented programs on the air. It was fast, fresh, and funny: strange and new concepts to Holland’s oeuvre. Here I was, under the impression that the director had learned some valuable lessons, and then we get to the aforementioned scene of a dog pooping in pot of food.
Strangely, while the film takes a liberal stance on stupidity, it reserves much respect for the firefighter characters and their efforts to save lives and their jobs. “Firehouse Dog” is really two separate movies: one side a valentine to the men and women who risk their lives to fight the beast called fire, and the other side, which is content to have a dog anally toot for 100 minutes to break up a steady stream of “Access Hollywood” lampoons. There’s a relief when the picture ditches the dog and Josh Hutcherson’s mannequin-like acting (a good child actor, but you’d never know that from this film) and focuses on the firefighters. But those moments are too infrequent to matter.
If there’s a message here, I didn’t catch it. If there was comedy here, I didn’t embrace it. “Firehouse Dog” sums up the state of children’s entertainment in recent years with an exclamation point. Seriously, families deserve much more respectful entertainment than this. If you really have an itch for a dog film rent last year’s delightful “Lassie” reboot, or better, snuggle in with “Old Yeller” again.Rating: D-