Firehouse Dog

Posted on April 3, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Ths story about a mega-movie star dog who gets lost and finds a home with the son of a fire chief is an uncomfortable blending of three different stories that neglects the one thing we want to see — the relationship between the boy and the dog.


Instead, we get pieces of three other movies, none of them very compelling. First, there is the father-son healing and reconnecting movie. Second, there is the satire about Hollywood and celebrities. And third, there is a “mystery” about an arsonist. The connecting link is a superstar superdog and the lonely boy who finds him, but that essential relationship is neglected and finally lost in the mishmash of overstuffed and under-written distractions.


Rexxx is the dog star of such box office powerhouses as “Jurassic Bark” and “The Fast and the Furriest.” He is known for his trademark pouf of windswept bangs and beloved by fans all over the world. But when a movie stunt goes wrong, he is dropped into a tomato truck, and the bangs, which turn out to be a toupee, fly off in another direction. He is found by Shane (Josh Hutcherson of Bridge to Terabithia, who happens to be playing hookey that day to get out of a science test.


Shane and his dad Connor (Bruce Greenwood) are both unhappy. Connor’s brother Marc, who was the fire chief, was killed six months earlier in a fire. Connor has been given Marc’s old job, but can’t take Marc’s name plate down or move into his office. It does not seem to matter as the firehouse is scheduled to close, its members to be redistributed to other stations. Connor and Shane are too wound up in their own unhappiness to reach out to each other.


Shane at first can’t wait to get rid of the dog he thinks is named Dewey (the prop tag Rexxx was wearing). But then he sees Dewey do some wheelies on his skateboard and asks, “What else ya got?” Zip along to Rexxx/Dewey helping the firefighters find a buried colleague, and suddenly Dewey is bringing everyone together. He even has time to clean up Shane’s bedroom, quicker than you can say “Mary Poppins.”


It all feels patched together and as sincere as Rexxx’s toupee and as generic as the “mystery” behind the arson. It is as uncertain about its audience as it is about its story, with material that pushes the edge of a PG rating, including some crude language, a sad (offscreen) death, and intense firefighting scenes of peril and violence. “Boy and his dog” movies almost always work well, but this one fails because it forgets to make that relationship important and real.

Parents should know that this movie has very intense and explicit peril and violence for a PG movie, including fires and explosions. A child is in peril and (apparently) hurt. There are references to a sad death. Characters use strong and crude language for a PG and there is some potty humor. Kids talk about cheating in school and Shane is truant without any real consequences. Some audience members may be troubled by references to Shane’s mother abandoning the family. A strength of the movie is strong female and minority characters.


Families who see this movie should talk about how Shane, Dewey, and Connor all have to learn to move on and how that does not mean forgetting those who are gone, but honoring what they gave us. Why did Shane think he was not strong? Why did Dewey like being with Shane? Why did Shane like Dewey? What qualities would you say are in your DNA?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Air Bud and My Dog Skip and just about any one of the various versions of “Lassie.” Older viewers will enjoy seeing Greenwood and Culp playing brothers John and Robert Kennedy in the excellent Cuban Missile Crisis movie Thirteen Days.

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Action/Adventure Comedy Family Issues

Are We Done Yet?

Posted on April 1, 2007 at 12:50 pm

C-
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some innuendos and brief language.
Profanity: Some crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, scene in bar, drinking in response to stress
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and violence, no one hurt
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters but some stereotyping and disabilities played for humor
Date Released to Theaters: 2007
Date Released to DVD: 2007
Amazon.com ASIN: B000RBA6C4

Is it over yet? Please?


Ice Cube’s Are We There Yet? was tough enough to sit through, though unaccountably successful. Thus, we have this doubly unnecessary sequel. It is so creatively bankrupt that it has to teeter not just on the original, which was bad enough, but it has the temerity to call itself in part a remake of the Cary Grant/Myra Loy classic Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. This movie does to that one what dry rot does to wood.


In the first film, Ice Cube played Nick, who was happily single until he saw Suzanne (Nia Long), not only beautiful but, like him, a fan of Satchel Paige. He fell so hard for her that he offered to take her children to Vancouver, which resulted in a series of mishaps that were only slightly less excruciating than the phony sentimentality. Now, Nick, pregnant-with-twins Suzanne, and the kids move out of Nick’s bachelor apartment into a beautiful house in the country that turns out to be falling apart. It will take a village to make it habitable — a very expensive village.


The screenplay is as rickety and jerrybuilt as the fixer-upper Nick moves into, all pratfalls and muckishness. Its lazy contempt for the audience means that we never believe for a moment that Nick, Suzanne, and the kids are in the same movie, much less the same family. There is no sense of connection, not even a consistent sense of character. Nick’s insistent “I can fix that” persona comes and goes, along with his plans to start a magazine. When Suzanne tells him she is pregnant, his reaction is “By who?” (a poor choice for a movie aimed at kids) and then a stiff drink (ditto). Even the lovely Long cannot make Suzanne into anything more than a vague character who urges everyone to be nice all the time. She is so clueless about what is going on with her family that she seems a little creepy. The kids make no contribution (except for another classic pop musical number from School of Rock’s Aleisha Allen). The primary relationship in the movie is between Nick and his Renaissance Man contractor, Chuck (John C. McGinley). The script tries to have it both ways, making him a slick con artist and a warm-hearted guy who just wants to be part of the family, letting any latent humor out of the situation like a slow leak from a tire. The whole movie feels like a slow leak, no chemistry, no energy, as synthetic as masonite painted to look like pine.

Parents should know that this movie has a great deal of comic peril and violence, crashing through floors and falling off roofs. There are comic scuffles and there is some crude jokes. There’s a brief shot of a workman’s bare tush and some potty humor. Nick criticizes his step-daughter’s skimpy clothes and worries that she is getting involved with boys. There are some mild sexual references and a non-explicit on-screen childbirth scene. When Suzanne tells Nick she is pregnant, he asks “by who?” Characters drink, including drinking in response to stress. There is a reference to a sad death. A strength of the movie, particularly in light of the unintended racism (by today’s terms) of “Mr. Blandings,” is the portrayal of diverse characters, thought it engages in some stereotyping and portrays disabilities as humorous.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Nick always wanted Suzanne and the kids to think that he knew how to fix everything. Why did Suzanne feel she had to move out? Families might also like to talk about some of the issues that blended families face.

Families who appreciate this film will enjoy the much better comedies about home renovation, including Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, George Washington Slept Here and The Money Pit. They might also enjoy watching “Extreme Home Makeover” and other shows about home repair and decorating.

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Comedy Family Issues Movies
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