Had it been made shortly after 9/11, Firehouse Dog might have seemed like a shameless attempt to marry the country’s reverence for the New York Fire Department with Air Bud. As it stands, however, this pooch adventure from Todd Holland—the director of 1989’s infamous feature-length Nintendo advertisement The Wizard—is merely a mundane family film defined by cheery morals and awkward flights of fancy. Taking place in some alternate dimension where animals are movie stars, Firehouse Dog follows the riches-to-rags trajectory of hairpiece-wearing cinematic icon Rexxx (star of pun-loving hits like The Fast and the Furriest and Jurassic Bark) as he inadvertently falls from a plane during the production of his latest blockbuster and winds up in the care of a young boy named Shane (Josh Hutcherson) and his dad, fire department captain Connor (Bruce Greenwood). The canine’s acrobatic and skateboarding skills are complemented by a decidedly human intellect, and thus it doesn’t take long before he’s helping Shane and Connor get over the death of recently deceased Uncle Mark, save the station house from being shut down, rescue people from raging infernos, and investigate a mysterious arsonist. That Rexxx (renamed Dewy due to a misleading collar) is capable of tidying up Shane’s pig-sty room but doesn’t know how to get in touch with his grieving master (Dash Mihok) would be a more pesky inconsistency if this wasn’t a fundamentally illogical movie about a superpowered firefighting dog. And in its favor, at least the story’s upbeat lessons about family, heroism, and choosing happiness over fame and fortune are delivered with sincerity and a general absence of unimaginative scatological humor (save
for one wretched defecation-in-food gag). Still, given its premise’s opportunity to skewer Hollywood vanity and greed, it’s a little disappointing—if not, admittedly, very surprising—to find that the film uses its four-legged Hollywood stars not for tongue-in-cheek critique but merely for cutesy anthropomorphic reaction shots.