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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Firehouse Dog

This afternoon as I was sitting waiting for Firehouse Dog to begin at the Essex Cinemas I was reflecting on the subject of canines in general. I usually cringe at movies about dogs, mostly because I never got over the childhood trauma of seeing Old Yeller when I was six or so. Of course, most everybody knows how that turned out, and it wasn’t good. And that’s not the only dog movie that comes to a tragic end. Remember Turner & Hooch, My Dog Skip, Eight Below? Even Cujo ended badly for its’ furry star, and people were rooting for him to die. People! He was sick! He was out of his mind. He couldn’t help it!

That’s why I was reticent to see
Firehouse Dog. I wasn’t ready to get sucked in again, falling in love with a movie mutt only to have him go paws-up before the end credits roll. I hate that. I don’t even know why Hollywood insists on making movies about dogs anyway. What about cats? Oh sure, I know the “Man’s Best Friend” bit, but I don’t believe it. Every time my husband has his pals over to play poker it seems like whenever I enter the room to bring the guys more beer or snacks they are talking about somebody’s pussy. Obviously they love cats more than dogs even if they insist on taking the family dog on trips while leaving the pussycats at home to fend for themselves. I think it must be because men think of kitties as “feminine” animals since they are sleek and graceful, so they only talk admiringly about them with their best friends behind closed doors. That’s probably why they clam up when I walk in the room with the Budweiser and Doritos. It is cute though that they are so concerned. I’ve even heard them whispering about celebrities’ pets. My brother-in-law told the guys he can’t believe Lindsey Lohan was tossing her pussy out in front of the paparazzi in the dead of winter. I’d be concerned too. I never let my cats outside past October until at least May. The same would hold true with our dog, if we had one, which we don’t because of Old Yeller. So here we are again, back to my white-knuckle fear. As the lights dimmed I wondered if there was a patron saint of cinematic dogs I could say a prayer to in order to ensure a happy ending.

Well, I have good news and great news! First, the good news is that
Firehouse Dog is a terrific and engaging movie both for kids and adults. The great news is that the dog lives! Yep, he beats the odds and does what so many before him could not do. He manages a happy ending, and to me that is the best thing any family film with a dog as the center of its story can offer.

Firehouse Dog is a tale about Hollywood actor Rexxx, the canine superstar of such hit films as The Fast and the Furriest and Jurassic Bark. During a stunt gone wrong, Rexxx is thought to be accidentally killed but instead he is jettisoned from a plane sans parachute and dumped into a truck full of tomatoes on its way to market. Once he emerges from the mess he crosses paths with truant Shane Fahey (Josh Hutcherson; Bridge to Terabithia), and so begins a relationship that neither wants but both are destined to grow to love.

Shayne’s father, Connor (Bruce Greenwood; Déjà Vu), is the newly appointed Captain of Dogpatch Station, a dilapidated fire station in a shabby part of town where most of the buildings are either boarded up or falling down. The fire crew there is a motley gang of one dimensional characters that provide occasional comic relief and parental guidance for both father and son given that they are both still hurting since the death of the previous Captain, who happened to be Connor’s older brother and Shayne’s only uncle. Fortunately for the station, Rexxx, now known as Dewey, becomes a good luck charm for the team, and as he bonds with Shayne he also slowly becomes an integral part of the healing process for Connor.

Dewey’s boundless energy and remarkable skills certainly stun the firefighters. After all, Dewey can skateboard, do back-flips, play video games, and in one very memorable scene prove his stature as a food critic in a most unique and funny (and disgusting) way. You may never be able to eat stew again after you see this. I guarantee you will at least laugh before you take your first bite. It’s just that memorable.

In the midst of all these sparkling bits of humor, a darker story also unfolds involving a serial arsonist who Connor suspects is responsible for many fires throughout their district in the past several months, including the fire that killed his brother. While he has no official capacity to investigate such a theory, he does so informally and in no time Shayne and Dewey have picked up wind of what’s going on and are doing their own version of The Hardy Boys.

I won’t give away too much more, but the story does blossom with a couple of pretty intense scenes that include more than one character trapped in burning structures and in need of rescue. This might be too much for the littlest of viewers to watch, especially since it falls upon the furry shoulders of Dewey himself in both instances to come to the rescue, thus also putting himself at risk. I’ll admit even jaded old crankypants that I am, I was clutching onto my chair’s arms tightly, not even aware that I was holding my breath in fear that the worst was looming. Of course it all turns out for the best, which is a tremendous relief and before the story wraps up the mystery of who and why
the arson attacks have been happening is exposed, thanks to Shayne and Dewey. Naturally, all of this publicity means that Hollywood agent Trey Falcon (Dash Mihok; Hollywoodland), Rexxx’s original owner, shows up before the final credits roll and there is the inevitable confrontation and heartbreaking custody moment that will put butterflies in your stomach, but, all-in-all, it is hard to feel that whoever he ends up with Rexxx/Dewey will not be loved. He’s impossible not to love, and if you scoot on down to the Essex Cinemas to see for yourself, you’ll fall in love with him too. He’s truly one cool cat…for a dog.

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