Combustible Celluloid
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With: Josh Hutcherson, Bruce Greenwood, Bill Nunn, Scotch Ellis Loring, Mayte Garcia, Teddy Sears, Steven Culp, Dash Mihok, Bree Turner, Hannah Lochner, Claudette Mink, Shane Daly, Matt Cooke, Katie Finneran, Brandon Craggs, Arwen, Frodo, Rohan, Stryder
Written by: Claire-Dee Lim, Mike Werb, Michael Colleary
Directed by: Todd Holland
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of action peril, some mild crude humor and language
Running Time: 111
Date: 04/04/2007

Firehouse Dog (2007)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Nowhere to Hydrant

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Directed by Todd Holland (Krippendorf's Tribe) and written by Claire-Dee Lim, Mike Werb and Michael Colleary, Firehouse Dog is a mostly inoffensive and professional job, with all the plot details carefully worked out according to standard guidelines. Not much goes amiss. The advertising materials use images of the heroic dog (played by four identical real-life pooches: Arwen, Frodo, Rohan and Stryder) riding a skateboard and wearing sunglasses, but thankfully such nonsense is kept to a minimum in the actual movie. The dog doesn't talk through CGI dog lips, but we do get three farting scenes, and -- you guessed it -- a burst of George Thorogood singing "Bad to the Bone" (get it?).

Instead, Firehouse Dog concentrates on plot, lots and lots of plot, a butt-numbing 111 minutes of plot with at least six subplots. Unless your child has the patience of a saint, I'd suggest proceeding with caution.

The movie also trips up its chance to parody show business. This film's idea of "jokes" is to pun on recent movie titles like Jurassic Bark and The Fast and the Furriest. The main trouble is that Hollywood hasn't had a real dog star since 'Benji' romped through the 1970s (although a small attempt was made just this past year to resurrect Lassie), and Firehouse Dog really doesn't have the first idea what dog stardom actually entails (no pun intended). For one thing, it has to do with a great deal more than navigating a multi-tiered story; back in the silent era, Rin Tin Tin worked in some of the creakiest plots imaginable, but he had a palpable screen presence, one that can still be felt today. (His 1925 film Clash of the Wolves is available in the More Treasures from American Film Archives 1894-1931 DVD box set.)

But even though genuine dog stars are hard to come by, good dog movies are not, thankfully, so rare. Just last year, there was The Cave of the Yellow Dog, a delightful family-friendly movie from Mongolia (of all places), that tells a story simple enough to translate across cultures. The theatrical release had subtitles, but the new DVD from Tartan Video comes with an optional dubbed track so that children of all ages can enjoy. How's that for throwing a bone? (Please see my full-length review at{subid}&url=hitlist.asp?searchfield=marvel
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