In Hollywood, Rexxx is top dog in a dog-eat-dog world.
The pampered star of unforgettable actioners such as Jurassic Bark, The Fast and the Furriest and The Canine Mutiny, this red Irish terrier has life by the collar. Until, that is, a tragic movie-shoot accident hurls Rexxx from a plane … without his parachute. His heartbroken handler, Trey Falcon, assumes, of course, that Rexxx has perished.
Fate, however, tosses Rexxx a bone in the form of a squishy landing in a tomato truck. Disheveled and disoriented, the dog takes refuge in an abandoned warehouse … that’s soon set on fire. But the plucky pooch isn’t completely out of luck yet. He’s rescued by Captain Connor Fahey, leader of a rag-tag troop of firemen (and one firewoman) from a dilapidated inner-city station dubbed the Dogpatch.
Fahey struggles to keep it together—as a boss and a single dad. His brother, Mark, formerly the station’s captain, has recently perished fighting a fire. Grief hobbles Connor’s leadership, while his 12-year-old son, Shane, reacts to the loss by skipping school. To top it off, the city is threatening to close the Dogpatch forever.
Rexxx’s arrival shakes everything up. Not only does the canine—known to the station as Dewey—capture Shane’s heart, his keen athletic ability makes him a spectacular firedog. When a dramatic rescue makes him front-page news, Trey reappears to reclaim his back-from-the-dead megastar … just as Shane and Connor need him the most to help them foil the nefarious plans of a mysterious serial arsonist.
The strongest positive themes in Firehouse Dog revolve around Connor’s relationship with his son, Shane. After he gets caught ditching school, Shane takes one of the firemen’s advice and apologizes to his dad. Connor hears him and disciplines him fairly by taking away his video game and iPod privileges. Their relationship is often tense, but Connor and Shane are eventually able to process Mark’s death together. Dad says he’s been on Shane’s case too much and admits that he’s been neglecting their relationship. Significantly, Connor tells Shane that he’s “smart, capable and strong,” and he apologizes for being a “lousy dad” since his brother died. Shane in turn confesses that he’s felt guilty since Mark’s death because he was glad it wasn’t his dad who was killed. Tender stuff, this father-and-son relationship. Shane is also determined to help his dad solve the arson epidemic.
Dad encourages Shane to take responsibility for Rexxx when it’s clear the dog is going to be around awhile. Rexxx, who’s a bit of a neat freak, humorously picks up all of Shane’s dirty laundry, then “cleans” his room by pushing various misplaced objects and furniture back into their rightful positions. Rexxx also manages to get Shane to quit playing his beloved PlayStation 2 to study instead. Shane’s renewed scholastic discipline gives him the confidence he needs to resist the temptation to cheat on a tough pop quiz.
Connor displays heroism and courage on the job. He risks his life to save a rival fire chief, Captain Jessie Presley, who’s trapped in a burning building. After a firedog competition in which Rexxx ultimately loses to the Presley family’s dog, Jessie’s daughter, Jasmine, is a good sport when she tells Shane that “the better dog lost.”
Heaven is implied when a character tells Connor that Mark is looking down from above. At Rexxx’s supposed funeral, Trey describes the dog as a new star in heaven. Glimpsing a powerful replacement motor for a fire engine (in a wooden crate), a fireman exclaims, “It’s the Ark of the Covenant!”
Feisty Pep Clemente is the only woman on the Dogpatch squad. She’s very briefly shown jabbing a punching bag in an athletic sports bra and shorts. And she sleeps in the firehouse’s barracks with the guys (in separate, well-spaced single beds). When an alarm awakens the team at night, we see her in boxer shorts and a T-shirt. One guy in that scene is similarly clothed, while another wears only boxers. A couple of scenes picture women in cleavage-revealing outfits.
After Trey and Rexxx are reunited, Trey takes the dog to a room in which three female poodles are “waiting” for him. But when Rexxx hears a fire-engine siren, he “does the right thing” and goes to help his friends instead of bedding his “harem.” Another equally ridiculous (and humorous) scene is a doggy flashback that mimics Bo Derek’s infamous slo-mo beach stroll in 1979’s 10—right down to the female dog’s braided fur-do.
The film’s most intense scenes involve firefighting and burning buildings. In the first, Connor must rescue Rexxx—who’s stranded atop a burning building. Rexxx jumps to him, and both dangle precariously over the edge of the ladder. (Rexxx subsequently falls to a safe landing in the firemen’s rescue tarp). Another fire-and-rescue situation takes place at a new construction site, where Jessie Presley has been buried beneath a pile of debris. Rexxx helps Connor locate the female captain and save her amid flames, smoke and explosions.
Next, Shane confronts the arsonist. Both Shane and the fire-starter end up trapped after rubble falls on them and fire seals off the exits. The suspenseful finale finds Shane stuck in the blazing building until his father arrives to help extricate him with an ax. Pep later kicks and hits the captured arsonist.
Slapstick-style violence includes a dog catcher’s bungled attempt to round up Rexxx, and two shots of a rookie firefighter sliding down the pole on top of another team member.
Characters say “oh my god” twice and use “h—” as an interjection once. (Rexxx is twice labeled the “mutt from hell” and once called “crusty butt.”) After the dog falls out of the airplane, Trey repeats, “I suck!” Others also say “suck,” “mouth fart,” “jerk,” “loser” and what sounds like “son of a gun.”
A bottle of champagne is among Rexxx’s posh appointments in his former life. People drink champagne and wine at a fireman’s ball. Trey has a bottle of champagne in his hotel room to celebrate Rexxx’s return. Connor consumes what appears to be a beer (it’s a dark, unlabeled bottle) at home. The arsonist uses cigarette boxes to house his incendiary devices. Bud Light’s ’80s mascot Spuds MacKenzie shows up at Rexxx’s memorial service.
In the wake of his uncle Mark’s death, Shane makes some poor decisions. He’s a video game fiend (friends are jealous that his father’s absence allowed him to play Alien Seed for 11 hours straight), he cuts class to cruise the city on his skateboard, and he’ll lie to get out of a tight spot. Shane’s friends don’t seem to be the best influences, either, as they talk openly about copying one another’s homework. Shane’s cultural accessories include a Green Day poster in his room, a Thrasher skateboarding magazine sticker and a T-shirt for either a band or a skateboard company called Blind.
After Dad locks up Shane’s electronic goodies, the boy easily breaks the lock and surreptitiously retrieves them. When Connor sees the PlayStation 2 out again, no mention is made of his son’s previous discipline and whether or not Shane is playing with Dad’s permission. It’s implied that Shane may be home alone some nights when Connor sleeps at the station.
Several scenes involve bathroom humor, terrier-style. Rexxx urinates on a small fire to extinguish it. He loudly belches and/or passes gas about a half-dozen times. And he eats a mouthful of the firehouse cook’s much-loathed meat stew, then chokes, belches and turns around to defecate in the stew just as Pep sees him and exclaims that the stew “tastes like … dog you read my mind.” A television reporter comments on Rexxx’s new cologne, which is a mixture of bacon, squirrel and “butt-crack.”
Of more serious note: We see an arsonist set two fires. And in dealing with the way kids understand fire-safety issues, it’s worth mentioning that despite being a fireman’s son, Shane doesn’t stay low to the ground and away from potentially lethal smoke as safety experts instruct.
Firehouse Dog is a sweet if clichéd action/comedy that’s as much about a boy’s relationship with his father as it is the dog who’s ostensibly the star of the show. Rexxx’s exploits add humor to the storyline, but the film’s deepest emotional resonance lies with Shane and Connor. Occasional (mild) gross-outs and Shane’s disobedience (which is dealt with) are probably the biggest content concerns here. Positive messages highlight love, discipline, responsibility and good communication between family members struggling to come to terms with loss.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews.