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Review

‘Hotel for Dogs’ relies on ‘cuteness,’ neglects to strive for originality

José Cruz Jr.

March 12, 2009

Child-friendly movies are not always this bad. If a film has enough imagination and knowledge of children, it can definitely pull off a movie that entertains kids, as well as adults (i.e. “Wall-E”). But it is when producers sacrifice originality and heart for crap that will simply earn a quick buck. Such is usually the case with flicks that revolve around animals, particularly domestic animals (from “Air Bud” to “Marley & Me”). “Hotel for Dogs” is a prime example of cuteness-galore in a heartless movie.

After going through five families in three years, orphan siblings Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake Austin) are stuck in foster-care hell with two wannabe rock stars (the terrible glam rock kind at that). While bouncing around from family to family, the two have managed to keep their dog, Friday, right by their side without actually having the terrier stay in the house. All day long, Friday roams the streets, presumably to find food.  Meanwhile, the kids are scamming pawnshop cashiers in order to keep the furry bastard alive. One day, the duo follows Friday into an abandoned hotel, where they discover several other strays are taking up residence. As they make a few friends, they feel it is their mission to save every single stray dog by taking them to the vacant hotel.

This movie is so beyond ridiculous that I hope for the sake of the human race that the kids see through the bullcrap. But then again, I may be overestimating the target audience. The idea of children being able to sneak 10+ dogs into a dilapidated hotel without being seen or noticed is stretching it enough, especially when their rescue vehicle of choice is a large truck altered to look like a canine (not nearly as funny as the one in “Dumb and Dumber”). But we are expected to believe that Bruce is an uber-genius, and not in the Rain Man sort of way. The kid has not hit puberty yet, and you would think that he has a degree in engineering because of how smart he is. He builds numerous contraptions in the hotel in a matter of hours, like a car ride simulator, a food dispenser that feeds the fifty plus dogs at specific times of the day and a dog treat vending machine.

The dogs are also insanely smart, and may deliver the best performances of the movie Friday can always find his owners from anywhere in the city and returns home safely. The other dogs were so well-trained while living in the streets that they immediately sit at their assigned seats at the dinner table and know how to defecate in specially designed toilets.

I might be judging a children’s movie a little too harshly, but I have seen enough of them in my lifetime to differentiate between the good and bad ones. The kids might get a kick out of it, because there are plenty of poop and pee jokes, which populate a lot of dog-centric films. But I have a feeling that parents will be rolling their eyes so much that they might get stuck like that.

1 star

José Cruz Jr. is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

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