Review of Hotel for Dogs

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Movie Review: "Hotel for Dogs"

-- Rating: PG (brief mild thematic elements, language, and some crude humor)
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: January 16, 2009
Directed by: Thor Freudenthal
Genre: Comedy, Family

"Hotel for Dogs," produced by Nickelodeon Movies and distributed by DreamWorks, is an American children's movie based on the Lois Duncan novel of the same name. The director of the film, Thor Freudenthal, has had previous success with movies for kids, most notably "Stuart Little" and "Stuart Little 2." The film stars two upcoming actors, Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin, who give commanding performances as two siblings. In addition to these future stars, Don Cheadle, Lisa Kudrow, and Kevin Dillon give expert performances.

The opening scene of the movie shows Andi and Bruce (Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin) trying to con a shop owner into giving them enough funds to feed their dog, Friday. However, things turn ugly when the shop owner informs police of the attempted robbery and specifically points out Andi as one of the two offenders.

The police discover them both and take them to the local police station for questioning. At the station, the siblings meet Bernie (Don Cheadle), a social worker who attempts to help. Bernie warns the pair that although they have passed through a number of foster homes together, they may have to be separated soon due to their continued bad behavior.

After lecturing Andi and Bruce, Bernie drives the children back home to their current foster parents, Lois and Carl (Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon). The foster parents are disappointed that their kids have missed out on dinner, but Bernie takes responsibility, as he was the one who delayed them at the police station. As a punishment for their little adventure, Andi and Bruce are told to go to their room for the rest of the night, but little do Lois and Carl know that Friday is hidden in the kids' room.

The next morning, Andi and Bruce discover that Friday has somehow escaped from their apartment. The search goes out for Friday, and Andi and Bruce lead the charge to get their dog back home. The first place they make an inquiry is the local pet store. The owner tells them to check the local pound to see if Friday has been picked up. When they get there, Friday is indeed at the pound. However, the only way they can get him released is to bribe one of the officers.

On their way home from the pound, Andi and Bruce witness a burglary. The siblings flee to a hotel when they realize the police are about to arrive. Their primary concern is that they may be seen as the perpetrators. In all this commotion, Friday is once again parted from the pair. Andi and Bruce search the hotel and discover that Friday has found a canine friend. The kids decide to leave Friday there and return back later.

The following day, Andi and Bruce return to the hotel to feed the dogs. Things get a little out of hand, however, as the pair take in even more stray dogs. Bruce comes up with an idea to name all the dogs using the hotel's guest registry. As Bruce is busy trying to entertain all the dogs, Andi is caught out when a friend recognizes her as a foster child. Andi becomes upset and runs back to the hotel. However, the police follow her, and they find the dogs and arrest both kids.

At this point all hope seems lost: Andi and Bruce are to be sent to two different foster homes, and all the dogs are going to be put down. Once again, Friday manages to escape and find Andi and Bruce, who then release all the stray dogs from the pound. All the dogs run straight back to the hotel. Unfortunately, a staff member sees the dogs and calls in the police. The police turn up, intending to arrest everyone and take the dogs back to the pound; however, Bernie delivers an inspiring speech about the amazing work the siblings have done with the dogs.

The police and everyone else seem convinced by this appeal, and a decision is made to set up a dog shelter at the hotel. At the end of the movie, Bernie and his wife, Carol (Robinne Lee), agree to adopt Andi and Bruce and help them look after all the stray dogs.

"Hotel for Dogs" is perfect for kids and dog lovers, but almost everyone can get something out of it. The inspiring themes of hope and determination are present throughout the movie, so "Hotel for Dogs" can be enjoyed by viewers of all ages.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars