Dog's days gain some real meaning

Posted: April 06, 2007

Rexxx, an Irish terrier with eyes the consistency of melted chocolate and a coat roughly the color of Lindsay Lohan's locks, isn't a canine hero but he plays one in the movies.

The star of The Fast and the Furrious and Jurassic Bark is Hollywood's top dog, numbering among his buds the Aflac duck and the Taco Bell Chihuahua.

As he performs a spectacular skydive for his current film, Rexxx's rip cord malfunctions and the pooch crashes to earth, presumed dead by his trainer.

But the wonder pup lives and, in a modest backwater, finds meaning as a work dog, rescuing humans as he rescues himself from the pampered precincts of privilege.

Firehouse Dog is a touching, family-friendly entertainment about a dog and his boy, in this case Rexxx, who is rechristened Dewey, and Shane (Josh Hutcherson), a troubled tween who becomes the dog's first human reclamation project.

The pensive Hutcherson is emerging as the Jodie Foster of Generation Y.

It is Hutcherson's performance, nicely complemented by that of Bruce Greenwood as Shane's single dad, Connor, that grounds Firehouse Dog in the realm of real emotions.

Rexxx/Dewey lacks the animal magnetism of movie pooches such as Lassie, Beethoven, Benji or - my favorite cine-canine - Fly, the border collie in Babe.

Not only does the dog humanize the humans, which is usually the point of films like this, but also the humans let the pooch be a work dog instead of a show dog.

In a film that's effectively the canine version of Doc Hollywood, the title character learns to sift false from true values. It's barking up the right tree.


Firehouse Dog *** (out of four stars)

Produced by Michael Colleary and Mike Werb, directed by Todd Holland, written by Claire-Dee Lim, Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Running time: 1 hour, 51 mins.

Shane Fahey. . . Josh Hutcherson

Connor Fahey. . . Bruce Greenwood

Joe Musto. . . Bill Nunn

Pep Clemente .............Mayte Garcia

Parent's guide: PG (animal in peril)

Playing at: area theaters


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey

at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com.

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