Hotel for Dogs (PG)

Action/Adventure 100 January 16, 2009
By Ella Taylor
Kids, pooches, childless couples, hotels past their prime, gifted actors in demeaning roles—who doesn’t need saving from themselves and others in this slobbery wet kiss of a family movie, whose premise appears to have been slapped together on the back of a napkin, then pitched to a roomful of exhausted executives banging out the January release slate? One winces for Lisa Kudrow, poured into a tight miniskirt as an aspiring rock star and wicked foster parent to two cute orphaned siblings (Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin), and no less for Don Cheadle as the kindly Child Protection officer who toils to find them a loving family. Collecting strays as they go, the children install themselves and a herd of good-looking dogs in a formerly grand downtown hotel and set up a utopian alternative to the pound and the orphanage. Novice director Thor Freudenthal has worked as a storyboard artist, and it shows in the movie’s lone imaginative diversion—the gizmos set up by a lonely child to entertain the hounds so they won’t bark up the authorities. In the department of small mercies, the dogs don’t talk, but the human dialogue is as stale as the characters bathing in love-the-family-you’re-with pathos.
Thor Freudenthal Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon, Don Cheadle Lois Duncan, Jeff Lowell Jack Leslie, Lauren Shuler Donner, Jonathan Gordon Ewan Leslie DreamWorks Pictures

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