The Austin Chronicle

Hotel for Dogs

Rated PG, 100 min. Directed by Thor Freudenthal. Starring Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon, Don Cheadle, Johnny Simmons, Troy Gentile, Robinne Lee.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Jan. 23, 2009

The conventional image we have of the kind of person who gets in trouble with the law over the sheltering of dozens of stray animals is one of a slightly batty spinster. But in Hotel for Dogs, the culprits are a couple of kids – orphans, no less – whose habit began with the covert maintenance of their family dog, Friday, whom they discreetly shuttle from one uncaring foster home to the next after “losing” their parents. Guess they don’t want to lose the pooch, too. Currently, Andi (Nancy Drew's Roberts) and Bruce (Austin of Wizards of Waverly Place) reside with the uncaring and untalented rock musicians Lois (Kudrow) and Carl (Dillon), who’ve taken in the kids only for the support checks that come with them. Cheadle plays the well-meaning social worker tasked with the near-impossible job of placing the brother and sister, who are unwilling to be separated. Apart from the portrait of the evil rock & rollers, Hotel for Dogs is a decent family film, sure to please animal-loving kids and their parents alike. Well-acted, the movie also looks good and is stocked with lots of goofy gadgetry. Bruce is a kid inventor who outfits their dog hotel with all sorts of mechanical contrivances worthy of Pee-wee's Playhouse, such as a vending machine that dispenses shoes for the dogs to chew and a multiple-seat dog potty that streamlines the bulk pooper-scooping process. Speaking of which, the movie has something all kids love: lots of poop and piddle comedy, all at the expense of the canine corps. Hotel for Dogs also deals fairly honestly with the sad situation in which orphans Andi and Bruce find themselves. It's delivered in kid-measured doses, for sure, and comes up with an unrealistically happy ending, so the movie should not frighten any kids fearful of parental desertion. Hotel for Dogs is a family-friendly operation.

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