"HOTEL FOR DOGS"
by Kevin Carr
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
“Hotel for Dogs” follows two orphans in a big city who are getting in trouble with the law as they are passed around from foster home to foster home. The kids soon find a purpose when they start rescuing stray dogs and holding them in an abandoned hotel. As the dogs settle in, the kids find the first family they’ve had in years.
WHAT I LIKED
As a parent who values movies that I can watch with the family, I generally like any film with dogs in it to some degree. While “Hotel for Dogs” isn’t the perfect family film, and it’s not at the level of the Disney dogs we’ve seen over the past year (e.g., “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” and “Bolt”), it is still a sweet film that the kids can enjoy.
Bottom line, you almost can’t go wrong with a kids’ movie about dogs. Case in point, my seven year old son declared recently that the perfect formula in “Hotel for Dogs” includes dogs running around and bags of dog poop.
Everyone’s a critic.
The human cast is decent, although they don’t’ always seem to have their heart in it. The kids do, with Emma Roberts leading the fray, getting almost too old for this type of film. However, she and her on-screen brother Jake T. Austin have good chemistry.
The best part of the movie is the dogs and their antics. When the dogs are on screen, doing their tricks and working through the Rube Goldberg devices set up in the hotel, things are great. When it’s just their human counterparts on screen, not so much.
But don’t let the two-legged characters keep you from choosing this movie for family movie night with your kids. They should love it.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The biggest stumbling block this film faces is that the concept, title and success of the movie hinges upon the dogs. However, they are not the core of the story. The kids are. And with the dogs being so much more compelling than the kids, the movie slows if the four-legged friends aren’t on screen.
The adults seem to be slumming it a bit, even though I doubt Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon have packed schedules to begin with. Don Cheadle phones in his performance, but he’s really not given a whole lot to work with in the first place.
The message to not leave orphans – human, canine or otherwise – behind is pretty heavy-handed, which can be tiresome at times. But then again, it’s still a good message for the core audience of this movie – the kids.
There’s a nice assortment of special features on this disc, including a feature commentary featuring Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin, as well as a slate of deleted scenes.
Featurettes include “Gadgets, Gizmos & Cool Contraptions,” “K-9 Casting,” “Bark on Cue!” and “A Home for Everyone: The Making of Hotel for Dogs.” The most interesting aspect of the special features were the interviews with Lois Duncan, who is best known for her teen thrillers. It’s refreshing to see an author approve a movie adaptation like she does.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Kids and the family movie crowd.