If you’re looking for a fun movie to take your family to see, I can’t say enough great things about Firehouse Dog. This was a total surprise to me!
I thought I might be mildly entertained by this film, with a plot that reminds me of Walden Media’s Because of Winn Dixie.
But the theme of Firehouse Dog is how a dad and son’s relationship is restored — involving the father’s heroic rescue — which reminds me so much of our relationship with our heavenly father.
Here’s the plot: a pampered Hollywood dog star, “Rexxx,” falls out of an airplane during a stunt shoot gone wrong. He ends up in a dump truck full of garbage and barely escapes the dog catcher.
He runs smack into 12-year-old Shane Fahey (played by Josh Hutcheson, the star of Bridge to Terabithia), who finds the mutt a nuisance at first. Shane lives alone with his dad, an overworked and stressed-out fireman. Father and son have communication problems, in a way similar to the plot line of Bridge to Terabithia.
Within days, this mutt, now called Dewey (the name on his movie-prop dog collar), has worked on Shane’s heart — proving himself by cleaning Shane’s room, performing skateboard stunts, and rescuing a coworker (a firewoman) in a dangerous fire. The dog has become hero of “Dog Patch,” the name of the station where Shane’s dad works.
Tension arises when the dog’s old owner sees his dog on TV — and comes to reclaim him. Also, there’s a mystery surrounding why so many fires take place within a small area of the city. Shane takes on the role of detective to try to discover if there’s an arsonist at work.
The movie contains enough humor to keep kids entertained (although one scene had too much ick factor for me — the dog goes to the bathroom in a terrible place). Josh Hutcheson is a wonderful actor; his facial expressions are captivating. And I loved how the director showed Shane’s dad as such a positive role model. Too many films and TV shows make men look like idiots — but not this one.
From a writer’s point of view, I tried to see what made this storyline stand out enough to capture the attention of a Hollywood film director. The wonderdog (People connect with dog stories — this is why Marley and Me shot to the #1 NYT bestselling position and is still selling well). The heroic firemen (reminding us of the bravery of 911). The kid as detective. The father and son relationship. Loyalty, courage. Selfless acts of heroism.
These themes gave me something to hold onto as I left the movie theater with my kids — and made me think how I could incorporate such timeless elements into my own writing.