Combustible Celluloid
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With: Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Don Cheadle, Johnny Simmons, Kyla Pratt, Troy Gentile, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon, Ajay Naidu
Written by: Jeff Lowell, Bob Schooley, Mark McCorkle, based on a book by Lois Duncan
Directed by: Thor Freudenthal
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild thematic elements, language and some crude humor
Running Time: 100
Date: 01/15/2009

Hotel for Dogs (2009)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Checking Out

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

How can you go wrong with a movie about a bunch of cute dogs and a bunch of cool, automated gizmos programmed to take care of them? Well, if you're making Hotel for Dogs, you can include numerous, repeating jokes about doggie pee and poo, and an overall impersonal laziness, as if your movie were merely an assignment to pass the time. Siblings Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin) are foster children currently staying with the awful, wannabe rockers Lois (Lisa Kudrow) and Carl Scudder (Kevin Dillon). The foster parents don't allow pets, so Andi and Bruce are forced to hide their cute dog, Friday. (The movie has one neat gimmick as Friday runs through the city, searching for food, but picking up several unwanted city smells.) Fortunately they find an abandoned hotel, which is not only full of all kinds of cool stuff from china and silverware to beds and bedspreads, but also does not currently have any homeless squatters. With the help of a couple of pet store workers and a local kid, they turn it into a "hotel for dogs," rounding up all the strays in the city and giving them a place to stay. Bruce builds gadgets to feed them, take care of their waste and entertain them. (He even builds automated "sheep" to keep a herding dog busy.) Some of this stuff is fun, but some of it is crushingly routine, such as the annoying use of a poodle as the epitome of canine female sex appeal, and a lazy Kill Bill reference. (We also get the annoying series of photos and videos during the closing credits of the cast and crew with their dogs.) Obvious questions, such as where all the money is coming from, go unanswered. Don Cheadle seems a bit bored as the siblings' social worker and barely even yawns through his poorly-written climactic speech. Two of the writers worked on the clever TV show Kim Possible but I'd wager that a third one, Jeff Lowell (Over Her Dead Body), probably re-wrote their last draft. [Note: Hotel for Dogs screened at the same time as Paul Blart Mall Cop, so I have no review for that film.]

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