Review: “Firehouse Dog”

The advancements in computer graphics have led various genres of filmmaking to improve over the years on assorted technical levels. Family films however haven’t been one of them. Granted splashy visuals allow for wild flights of fancy like the “Spy Kids” franchise, but more often than not they’re being used purely as a gimmick.

Unfortunately these films, like the countless direct-to-video horror and soft core porn movies that get released each year, are also often made on the cheap. Combined with the film’s producers always wanting more for their money, the result is a lot of half-assed graphics – those that were cutting edge back in the early 90’s but wouldn’t pass muster with anyone except anyone who’s too young to have entered the education system yet.

I say this because “Firehouse Dog” sets out to be a cute story for the littlies, but ultimately ends up being mildly creepy thanks to its rather ugly terrier often morphing into a physics-defying blurry sprite able to leap through flame-engulfed buildings, go skydiving planes, skateboard in traffic, and ultimately expose political corruption.

With animal protection carefully watching over, anything that this dog has to do involving more than lifting its head seems to involve bad animation – ultimately robbing the film of a genuine appeal (and even suspense) to know that much of the time this ain’t a real dog. Maybe the littlies will buy the illusion, but even they will be scratching their heads at a couple of the brown blurs this dog becomes. Or worse, it’ll inspire them to start pushing their pets in front of traffic to see them jump over cars.

‘Firehouse’ is a dog though in more ways than its titular hero and his CG stunt pooch. Rather than being too simple and unappealing for adults, the script actually overdoes it with multiple subplots all running at once – ranging from kiddie friendships to an arsonist real estate scam that echoes “Police Academy VI” (don’t ask me how I know that, just take my word for it).

The film is entirely inoffensive and plays it safe throughout, its comedy never devolving much beyond the requisite canine-related puns of recent movie titles or ubiquitous farting jokes – there’s at least three at last count. There’s some warm stuff about father-son relationships that doting dads will click too, decent supporting talent like Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp, a young hero and heroine who serves as everything but the love interest (cause girls have cooties), and a soundtrack using any songs it can with dog-related terminology – no surprise that ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ didn’t make it on that list.

The trouble is that even when the dog is real, he has about as much charisma as wet sack. He’s not cute, not spunky, and after assorted mutts with such screen presence (Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Benji, Hooch, Lindsay Lohan), there’s absolutely nothing to justify why this wasn’t sent direct to video – or hell even made. At 111 minutes long it certainly wears out the welcome mat, and whilst not as offensive as a piss stain on the carpet, this boy does have fleas.