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Hotel For Dogs
BLU-RAY disk
05.27.2009 By: Jason Adams
Hotel For Dogs order download
Director:
Thor Freudenthal

Actors:
Emma Roberts
Jake T Ausin
Don Cheadle

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Two orphans unwittingly open a hotel for stray dogs, and in the process, [sniff] find a family.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
It’s a Nickelodeon movie called HOTEL FOR DOGS about young kids and cute animals. What do you expect?

Not much, hopefully. It’s the kind of whimsical light fluff that kids eat up, but adults have a hard time digesting. I’m sure anyone under the age of 10 will see no problem with the adorable dogs and crazy shenanigans, but their parents might have trouble staying awake with the regurgitated plot and abhorrent clichés in what amounts to a two-hour PSA for adopting dogs. How formulaic is this movie? As soon as I saw Don Cheadle’s kind hearted social worker character drop off the kids with their horrible foster parents in the first scene I knew by the end of the movie he was going to adopt them himself. And he does.

Yep, Don Cheadle is in this movie. I’m not sure if he has kids too young to watch HOTEL RWANDA or if he just needed a new vacation home, but parenthood or money seem to be the only reasons that such a gifted actor would appear in a cookie cutter role in thankless film. And he’s not alone. Also slumming it are “Entourage” star Kevin Dillon and “Friends” alum Lisa Kudrow (though I’m not sure what else she’s up to nowadays) and executive producer Ivan Reitman.

I did enjoy watching the film as one of those movies where essentially the kids are doing horribly illegal things the entire runtime, but get away with it because they’re kids and it’s cute. Let me tell you how this story would go in real life. The stray dogs the kids take in definitely wouldn’t be well trained purebred, dogs that cost $2,000-$3,000 a piece. They’d be mangy, flea ridden mutts, many of whom would be horribly behaved and possibly rabid. Then after the children get mauled by 16 dogs, they’d get arrested for setting up shop and squatting in an abandoned building and running an illegal business. And once they break in to the city pound and free all the canines in a mad dash across the town, as they do in the film, they’d be looking at a couple years of solid jail time. And no big finale speech from Don Cheadle would save them.

Now that’s a movie I’d let my child watch.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by director Thor Freudenthal, actors Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin, and producer Jack Leslie: When you have to young actors in the commentary with you, apparently you spend most of the time congratulating them. There’s nothing of much substance here, mostly a lot of “Aww, cute doggies!”

Making of HOTEL FOR DOGS: If there’s one thing that this featurette shows, it’s just how unbelievably difficult it is working with dogs, let alone 120 dogs in one shot. And don’t get me started on the child actors…

That’s The Coolest Thing I’ve Ever Seen!: A look at all the crazy Rube Goldberg inventions that the kids use to entertain the dogs, and how they could be built in real life.

K9 Casting: The crew talk about how they selected each of the dog for their look and personality, and the trainers show how they train them for specific “acting” purposes.

Bark on Cue: Learn about the difficulty of having 20 dogs and 20 trainers yelling and blowing whistles while trying to record sound for a film and various other sonic challenges.

Deleted Scenes: Eight scenes, with mostly quick extraneous stuff. Although more Don Cheadle is always a good thing. (Lisa Kudrow, singing not so much.)

Trailers, Photo Galleries, and a PSA for the Pedigree Adoption Drive, narrated by David Duchovny.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I knew this movie was in trouble when my girlfriend, who being an insanely hardcore dog lover and the film’s target audience, thought that HOTEL FOR DOGS looked too dumb to watch. While that’s true, it is made for kids, so you can adjust the score accordingly by age.

Extra Tidbit: The writers of this movie also wrote SKY HIGH, which I actually thought was pretty darn good.
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