Rated PG for brief mild thematic elements, language and some crude humor, 100 minutes
Clever, engaging "Hotel for Dogs" is a fetching movie
I have to admit, after seeing the emotional dog tale "Marley & Me" I thought I would be done with canine films for awhile, but right on the heels of that hit movie comes the clever, engaging and more fun than you think "Hotel for Dogs." Sure, the story is wildly predictable and thin, but there's more than enough whimsy when you get this many dogs and other inventive gadgets together in the same film. Plus, it has Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts niece, as one of the stars. Combine the three and you have a winning combination that will certainly warm some hearts this cold winter.
Andi (Roberts) and her brother Bruce (Jake T. Austin, yes, he's Diego from the TV show "Go, Diego! Go") are orphans who are shuffled around from foster home to foster home. Currently, they're with a scummy, low-life couple Lois (Lisa Kudrow) and Carl (Kevin Dillon), wannabe rock singers who hate kids and even despise animals more, in spite of the fact that Andi and Bruce have been hiding their little white dog Friday for some time now.
Andi and Bruce seem to constantly get in trouble, making it a challenge for their case worker Bernie (Don Cheadle) to keep them in a good foster home. When Friday wanders off one day, they discover a few dogs living in a run-down, abandoned hotel. They quickly realize they can keep Friday there along with other strays in what becomes one big dog shelter, or hotel for dogs. It won't take long before those living in other buildings discover what they're doing and turn them and the dogs in.
"Hotel for Dogs" is a cheerful, fun movie about teens and the dogs they love, and it proves to be a winning combination that could turn out to be the sleeper hit of the season. This movie definitely hasn't gone to the dogs, but there are plenty of them to keep you company in the movie, with appearances from just about every breed you can think of. Even more fun are all the clever gadgets used in the hotel, such as dog toilets, simulated window rides and never-ending feeders.
"Hotel for Dogs" is suitable for everyone in the family, and there are enough laughs along the way to keep even the staunchest cat-lover amused. Roberts is growing up quickly and should continue to blossom into a beauty just like her aunt Julia - in the short time since "Nancy Drew" she's much taller and more mature. She and Austin make a good pair, and more amusing moments come from "Friends" Kudrow and "Entourage's" Dillon in small roles.
Though "Hotel for Dogs" overuses it's premise and the story runs thin quickly, there's still fun to be had, and it comes strongly recommended as the first solidly heartwarming family film of the new year - for dog and non-dog lovers alike.