Hotel for Dogs, Emma Roberts, Jake Austin

Jaimie Trueblood/DreamWorks

Review in a Hurry: A pair of perpetual foster kids (Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin) develop a shelter for stray pets in an abandoned inner-city hotel that somehow still has electricity, running water and a whole lot of potentially valuable equipment—like movie cameras and treadmills—that hasn't been looted yet.

The Bigger Picture: Be forewarned that the marketing of this film is deceptive. Those posters of dogs being pampered human-style, like with cucumbers on their eyes and food on silver platters? That stuff only happens during the last five minutes of the movie.

The rest of it focuses on orphan siblings Andi (Roberts) and Bruce (Austin), "strays" of the human variety, whose latest foster-parents-from-hell are a pair of past-it wannabe glam rockers, played by Kevin Dillon and Lisa Kudrow. Andi and Bruce cope by lying, stealing and running off as much as possible, which is all apparently morally justifiable since they do it all in the service of feeding their stray dog Friday, a pet they've maintained in secret through various foster homes.

When Friday finds his way to the miraculously equipped empty building down the street, they discover several other strays also living there—and Bruce decides to use his skill at crafting Rube Goldberg-type devices to jazz up the dogs' days. (Think cut-rate Wallace and Gromit). But sooner or later the kids' brazen trespassing and theft catch up with them and the "hotel" is discovered, setting the stage for the dogs to be impounded and the kids to stage a major canine jailbreak.

Even the normally reliable Kudrow can barely disguise her contempt for the material, but then there's Don Cheadle, playing the kids' caseworker, whose performance here should be required viewing for all aspiring actors. No matter how ludicrous things get, he treats the role with the utmost seriousness (Hotel Rwanda for Dogs, anyone?) and comes across as the only real human being in the whole thing.

The 180—a Second Opinion: Well, nobody's going to this movie for plot or realism. It's aimed at dog-lovers, who tend to be suckers for any flick filled with pups making, ahem, puppy-dog eyes at the camera. On that score, it delivers—and none of the dogs dies in this one.

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share