What Parents Should Know
Kids are interested to read about everything from the first domesticated dogs to how to train pets, and the art and photography, though of uneven quality, are appealing.
In the canine adventure genre, Firehouse Dog isn't the next Air Bud or Beethoven franchise-in-the-making. But it's a sweet enough pooch pic with just enough laughs -- and heart -- to save it from the formulaic mediocrity of many family-friendly flicks.
Shane (Josh Hutcherson, whose considerable on-screen charm and expressive face make him destined for at least an entire adolescence in Hollywood) is asked by his fire-captain dad (Bruce Greenwood) to take care of an outgoing mutt who was saved from a local fire. But Dewey is no ordinary dog -- he's really Hollywood top dog Rex, star of such blockbusters as The Fast and the Furriest and Jurassic Bark. Presumed dead after a film stunt gone awry, Rex starts to dig his new life as Shane's -- and later the firehouse's -- wonder dog.
While the movie's marketing emphasizes all of Rex's dog tricks -- and there are plenty -- Firehouse Dog also touches on some heavier themes. Shane and his dad are still mourning the death of a relative who died in a mysterious fire. Shane skips school and disobeys his father's rules, and the captain's squad is quickly devolving into the fire department's "last on the scene" joke. To add to the drama, an arsonist threatens to destroy the entire neighborhood surrounding the firehouse.
But fear not, families, it's still a kids' flick -- so Shane, Rex, and the eclectic crew of firefighters eventually come to the rescue. Before the final fire is put out, father and son have a touching heart-to-heart, and Rex decides that living like a star (one whose celebrity extends to tabloid gossip about his dalliances with Paris Hilton's Chihuahua, no less) is nothing compared to being a hero. And that's not a bad message for media-saturated kids ... or their celebrity-obsessed parents.
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