Where the Dogs Are
by Betty Jo Tucker
Canine charmers fill the screen in Hotel for Dogs, but the heartwarming relationship between a brother and sister gives this movie fantasy its greatest appeal. Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin steal the show as siblingsВ placed with foster parents more interested in themselves than in the welfare of their charges. These two young actors deliver endearing performances and make us care deeply about the characters they play.
Andi (Roberts) and Bruce (Austin) try their best to hide their dog Friday from the Scudders, the latest foster couple theyвЂ™ve been assigned to live with. ItвЂ™s not easy, for Friday even sneaks bacon right off the counter behind Mrs. ScudderвЂ™s (Lisa Kudrow) back. Thankfully, the mutt is quick —В but Andi and Bruce fear it wonвЂ™t be long before Friday will be discovered. They have to find a good home for their beloved pet. Friday himself, however, discovers an old hotel where a couple of other dogs have been hanging out. The place turns into a godsend for canines, especially after the inventive Bruce designs areas and contraptions any dog would love. Unfortunately, even with help from three other youngsters (Johnny Simmons, Kyla Pratt and Troy Gentile), Andi and Bruce may not be able to save the 30 animals who come to reside in their doggie hotel. But, oh how we want them to succeed!
Roberts (Nancy Drew) and Austin (The Perfect Game) excel at showing their charactersвЂ™ strong feelings and support for each other here. Sixteen-year-old Andi looks out for 11-year-old Bruce and vice-versa. And they donвЂ™t want to be separated. ItвЂ™s refreshing not to be bombarded with the hostility between brother and sister weвЂ™ve been exposed to in many other movies and television shows. Andi and Bruce emege as excellent role models for kids: they help each other out while rescuing dogs and creating a loving family they so desperately want.
Dogs of many breeds, shapes and sizes appear in this entertaining comedy —В and even the scruffiest ones look adorable. Not surprisingly, they perform impeccably. Called upon for such stunts as sitting quietly at a dinner table, fetching objects tossed by a strange invention, running frantically through the streets, howling and barking on cue, and so forth, these canny canines bring excitement and humor to their scenes.
Among the human supporting cast, Don Cheadle (Crash) and Kevin Dillon (Poseidon) stand out as a caring Social Services worker and an uncaring foster father, respectively. Cheadle exudes warmth in every sequence with the lead youngsters, whereas Dillon comes across as a first-class jerk —В exactly what his funny role requires.
Directed with a generally spirited pace by Thor Freudenthal (Motel) from a clever screenplay adaptation of Lois DuncanвЂ™s book by Jeff Lowell (Over Her Dead Body), Robert Schooley (Sky High) and Mark McCorkle (Sky High also), Hotel for Dogs earns a вЂњBest in ShowвЂќ family award from me.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated вЂњPGвЂќ for brief mild thematic elements, language and some crude humor.)
Betty Jo Tucker is a member of the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the San Diego Film Critics Society (SDFCS). SheВ teaches an online class, “The Reel Deal: Writing about Movies” for the LSS School of Writing and has published three movie-related books including CONFESSIONS OF A MOVIE ADDICT, an amusing memoir about her life at the movies. Betty Jo serves as the editor/lead film critic for ReelTalk Movie Reviews and hosts a weekly radio show, “Movie Addict Headquarters,” for BlogTalkRadio. She also writes monthly film commentary for the Colorado Senior Beacon.В For more information, please go to www.BettyJoTucker.com ..