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Hotel for Dogs


Stars: Emma Roberts, Jake T Austin, Don Cheadle, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon, Johnny Simmons, Kyla Pratt, Troy Gentile, Robinne Lee, Ajay Naidu, Eric Edelstein, Robinne Lee, Yvette Nicole Brown, Andre Ware, Jonathan Klein

Director: Thor Freudenthal

Kidflicks almost automatically attract negative reviews because of their obvious demographic – children. (Unless, that is, filmmakers have the sense to make their moppet movies in a foreign (i.e. not English) language, so that they can be seized on as ‘art’ because of bearing subtitles.

This warm-hearted children’s adventure almost inevitably falls into the former category since it delivers exactly what is says on the can. No chance, then, of its being hailed as the work of a new auteur. Instead, it relies on its well-assembled combination of slapstick, comedy and four-legged shtick combined with affectionate sentiment (especially at the climax when sentimental warmth threatened to set fire to my undershirt) to entertain kids, while accompanying adults squirm in their seats.

The story is straightforward enough: foster children Roberts (niece of Julia) and her younger brother Austin stumble across the empty Metropolitan hotel while hiding their newly found mutt from hostile foster parents Kudrow and Dillon, and end up transforming the derelict building into a palace for pooches, complete with Heath Robinson (or Rube Goldberg, if you prefer the American version) gadgets to feed and water the residents and attend to their bodily functions. Until, that is, the dog-catchers turn up…

Roberts and Austin do well up against the inevitably scene-stealing pooches, Cheadle takes the money and does his best with his saccharine social worker role and Kudrow – the only genuinely talented actor in the seemingly endless television series Friends – is good fun and deserves much better.

Alan Frank

USA/Germany 2009. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour.
100 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 22 Feb 2009