Dir. Thor Freudenthal, US, 100mins, 2009
Cast: Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Don Cheadle, Troy Gentile, Kyla Pratt, Lisa Kudrow
Review by Michelle Moore
DreamWorks pictures are going to have a massive hit on their hands with this film adaptation of the Lois Duncan novel, Hotel for Dogs . It tells the heroic story of Andi (Roberts) and Bruce (Austin), two youngsters, who find themselves in the position of rescuing stray and neglected dogs and caring for them in an abandoned hotel. Since being put into foster care three years earlier they have been hiding their dog Friday on the streets. When their beloved pet is captured by animal control, the two realise that they need a better plan, a safe house where Friday and other members of the dog community can seek comfort. So with Bruce's ingenious inventions, Andi's care, the help of two workers at the pet store and another lad, they create their own barking mad family.
This is an adorably innocent and heart-warming tale of five strong-minded and motivated youngsters, who name, care for and fight for the safety of dogs, while attempting to create a loving family; something the siblings haven't had in years. It is the adventurous, creative and technological mind of young Bruce and his inventions for hiding the animals and looking after their welfare that keep the hotel running and make for much of the humour in the film. They include a treadmill walking device, dog-friendly toilets and a machine that distributes food, while scenes involving the snatching of hot dogs from people in the street, chasing after a dog with food and being driven on mechanical sheep also provide some of the other funny moments.
As well as the humour, the loving care attached to this script is the film's most dominant feature. At times uplifting when the animals are rescued, and other times upsetting and tearful, the film touches upon many emotions. How the director managed to create and control such intelligent animals is wonderful to watch. Each dog seems to have its own personality and characteristics that make it stand out as an individual. One, for example, barks at a curtained window until he can see out of it while another chews absolutely anything in sight. The way the dogs communicate with each other is also astonishing. Who knew one small bark could mean so much.
Hotel For Dogs may take a while for adults to get into. While the opening where Andi and Bruce pull a money-making scam to feed Friday is probably more amusing for children, the narrative develops and no matter what your age, you will be warmed by the selfless acts of the youngsters, as they battle selfish foster parents, the legal system and the animal control workers. Like the majority of children's flicks, this one doesn't close on an unhappy ending; in fact all battles are overcome to conclude happily for both children and dogs.