- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
ovies like “Hotel for Dogs” are a critic’s worst nightmare. Point out its flaws – and there are several – and you’re the Grinch that stole Christmas. Give it a pass because it’s just a kid’s movie, and you get slagged by your peers for not doing your job. In other words, “Hotel for Dogs” is basically bulletproof. Nothing we say can hurt it, even though the movie sure as hell hurt us at times.
Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin are Andi and Bruce, two orphaned kids who live with foster parents they hate (Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon). They do some small-time hustling in order to buy food for their dog Friday, who is not allowed in their foster home. After they’re picked up by the police, their social worker Bernie (Don Cheadle) warns them that if they get in trouble one more time, they will be split up. When the police suspect them of a crime they didn’t commit, they hide out in an abandoned hotel across from their apartment, and find a couple other dogs staying there as well. Andi and Bruce decide to spruce the place up and give Friday and the other dogs a home. Soon they have the support of local pet store employees Dave (Johnny Simmons) and Heather (Kyla Pratt). Before long, the hotel is housing close to 50 strays, and not even Andi’s most creative fibs – she tends to lie about, well, everything – can keep the police and Animal Control off the scent forever.
W.C. Fields – who famously advised people never to work with kids and animals – is surely having a laugh from beyond the grave. Any time the movie is losing momentum, you can count on a close-up of some dog or other. “Hey, this movie is starting to drag… Awwwww, wook at the cute wittle doggies.” The adults in these movies, of course, are unreasonable villains (except Bernie). They must be film critics in their spare time.
Give credit to Cheadle and Roberts, though, for giving the movie their all. Roberts – who looks like pop singer Charlotte Sometimes – is slumming here, but she sure doesn’t act like it. Johnny Simmons is pretty bland as Andi’s non-threatening love interest, while Troy Gentile is wasted as the movie’s comic relief. The idea of Kudrow and Dillon as leather-clad rock star wannabes is a good one, but its potential is wasted as well.
There is nothing wrong with a movie about kids, or dogs, or both (see: “My Dog Skip,” “Marley & Me”). The problem with “Hotel for Dogs” is that it is made up almost entirely from parts of other, better stories. Orphaned children? Disney owns a copyright on that. Adults that “don’t get it”? Please. The movie was behind the 8-ball from the beginning. That it turned out to be not terrible is as good a compliment as you’re likely to find.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
It’s highly unlikely that the target audience for “Hotel for Dogs” even cares about extras, but Paramount has compiled a nice collection of extras for the Blu-ray release. Along with a commentary by director Thor Freudenthal and stars Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin, the disc also includes deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, and a cool look at the Rube Goldberg-esque inventions from the film.