Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
Release Date: January 16th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Thor Freudenthal Actors: Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Don Cheadle, Johnny Simmons, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon
otel for Dogs” plays it very safe and sticks to a tried-and-true children’s movie formula. For a great many viewers, the best thing about the film will be the cute and cuddly dogs that perform various tricks – their training is easily more impressive than the humdrum story, based on a hopefully more consequential Lois Duncan book. The dialogue lacks flair, the acting is expectedly simple, and the characters provide only modest entertainment in comparison to their canine costars. Adults will probably find it difficult to withstand the sickeningly sweet conclusion or the impossibly artificial mechanics behind the inner workings of the dog hotel, but the target audience is likely to be pleased.
16 year-old Andi (Emma Roberts) and her 11 year-old brother Bruce (Jake Austin) have bounced back and forth between orphanages and foster parents (five in the last three years) without finding comfort or satisfaction. Bernie (Don Cheadle), the kindly social worker who governs their placements, tries to reason with the children, who aren’t content with their newest family of quiver-inducing wannabe rockstars (Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon), who conduct obnoxious band practice in their apartment nonstop and compulsively lock up the cupboards and cabinets in their home. The brother and sister team have also been secretly keeping a pet dog, Friday, who uses automated gadgets constructed by the mechanically inclined Bruce to get food and to remain hidden.
Before school starts up, the troublemaking duo (they get money for dog food by pawning fraudulent goods) comes across an abandoned hotel with several canine occupants. Deciding to look after their newfound family of dogs, Andi and Bruce join forces with two employees from the nearby pet store (Johnny Simmons and Kyla Pratt) along with nosey Mark (Troy Gentile), to build an elaborate self-maintained shelter for unwanted, abandoned, and stray dogs. Initially, it seems they’ve bitten off more than they can chew, especially when cruel dog pound troops, nagging foster parents, and pesky cops begin to take notice of the incredibly large gathering of dogs at the dilapidated building.
The target audience probably won’t be asking the irritable questions that pop up: How can an 11 year-old kid build such intricate mechanical contraptions? Is it really that easy to train dozens of dogs to use said electrical gadgets? Is it simply luck that none of the dogs need medical attention? Is it really okay for children to commit crimes such as breaking and entering, trespassing, and even assault, as long as it’s done with the intent of saving animals? Clearly, this film wasn’t designed for everyone, but the trite dialogue (Kevin Dillon mutters the stale line “We’re in deep doo doo,” after falling into an enormous animal waste bin), the predictability of Bernie’s role, the sappy ending, and the “Kill Bill” music montage (Tomoyasu Hotei’s instantly recognizable “Battle Without Honor or Humanity”) are huge distractions – especially when one just wants to see some adorable dogs running amok.
– Mike Massie