Hotel for Dogs

In this family comedy-adventure, Andi (Emma Roberts) and her younger brother, Bruce (Jake T. Austin) live in a strictly no-pets household and are fast running out of ways to keep their perpetually hungry dog, Friday, under wraps.

When they accidentally stumble on an abandoned hotel that is already home to a couple of resourceful strays, Andi has an idea and taps Bruce’s mechanical genius for turning everyday objects into mechanical marvels, and, with the help of their friends in the neighbourhood, transform the down-and-out hotel into a magical dog paradise – not only for Friday, but for every stray they can find.

But when the barking dogs make the neighbours and the local dog catchers suspicious, the pair have to use every invention at their disposal to prevent them from finding out “who let the dogs in.” Besides Roberts and Austin, the film also stars Kyla Pratt, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon and Don Cheadle.

An inventive urban fairy tale based on Lois Duncan’s children’s book, the filmmakers’ believed the its strong message about the importance of family, however unconventional it may be, made the novel an ideal property to bring to the big screen.

The comedy comes from the dogs’ personalities and interactions – mixed with the deeper emotional theme of family and how the kids inadvertently create their own unit in this hotel for society’s strays and waifs.

The secret ingredient in the film according to producer Ivan Reitman, is this emotional core. “These days it’s kind of refreshing to see a story like this told in live action, rather than in animated form,” he says. “It’s a bit of a throwback to the great family movies of the ‘60s and ‘70s, like The Nutty Professor and The Shaggy Dog. There’s something special and magical going on.”

Not a million miles from the other movie review this week in terms of content and targeted audience, Hotel For Dogs is easy watching most younger kids will settle easily into.

Director Thor Freudenthal does reference the notion that foster kids and stray dogs have a lot in common – but never lets this weightier theme get in the way of the film’s Babe-like ambitions. And of course it all ends up in the happiest of finales.

With the kids and doggies grabbing most of the limelight, adult audiences will tune-in to the performances of Kudrow and Dillon, who play obnoxious foster parents as wannabe rock ‘n’ rollers, obsessively afraid that the kids will steal from them. Don Cheadle gets the undemanding role of good-guy welfare agent – but, as always, manages to milk it for what he can. Dogs are big business at the movies so far this year with Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Bolt and Marley & Me doing major business at the box office.

Hotel For Dogs adds its own feel good to the mix.

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