Published Jan 15, 2009With teen orphan protagonists who just can't seem to find the right foster parents and a kooky hotel full of cutesy abandoned dogs, it's inevitable that some criticism will come of a world that seems to only wants puppies. However, few likely expected to find a holocaust allegory in the middle of it all.
This subtext is only a minor aside, as the surface of the film crackles with cartoon-ish animal high jinks and contraptions, along with a heart-warming resolution to the teenage realization that the adult world is indeed flawed. Despite running out of steam by the third act, featuring a pointless romance and an excessive amount of dog poop jokes, Hotel for Dogs is a pleasant diversion for children and dog lovers alike.
The puppy parable follows Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin), sibling orphans as they are again stuck with moronic foster parents, in the form of two-wannabe rock stars (Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon), whose dislike of dogs forces the kids to hide their perpetually hungry Terrier, Friday.
Through sheer coincidence, Andi and Bruce stumble onto an abandoned hotel, which conveniently still has running water and electricity, where they start up a home for stray dogs, much to the chagrin of the local pound, who seemingly loves to exterminate four-legged critters.
Rounding out the story is a love interest for Andi in the form of Dave (Johnny Simmons) and the kids' social worker (Don Cheadle), as the only adult in the film with any sort of heart and compassion.
While more cynical viewers may not appreciate the schmaltzy manner in which much of the fatuity plays out, a distinctly youthful perspective in the film may prove successful with the key demographic. Nothing here is condescending or ironic, which is refreshing, given the recent rash of children's films that insist on being tongue-in-cheek and "oh so clever." (Paramount)