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Studio: DreamWorks Home Entertainment
Year: 2009
Cast: Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Kyla Pratt, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon, Don Cheadle
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Release Date: April 27, 2009, 2:13 pm
Rating: PG for (brief mild thematic elements, language and some crude humor)
Run Time: 01h:39m:58s

ìItís not funny! Itís anything but funny!î - Bernie (Don Cheadle)

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I'm reviewing this movie for two reasons: My kids' desire to see it and the cute Pug on the cover. Otherwise, I doubt even the great Don Cheadle can save it.

Movie Grade: D+

DVD Grade: B+

The only way to really review a movie like Hotel for Dogs is to sit down with your kids and base most of what you write on their initial reaction to it. Asking them even an hour after the screening could compromise the review due to their miniscule attention spans. Well, thatís exactly what I did with DreamWorksí Blu-ray release of the film, and next time, I might entertain the notion of skipping the screening myself and relying solely on them for feedback. While Iím kidding about that last part, as I couldnít, in good conscience write about a movie I havenít seen, this particular ìfamily filmî is tough to sit through as an adult. Kids, however, will lap up every minute of this fluff, and are sure to have a favorite dog (if I have to pick, the Pug gets my vote) by the time the end credits start rolling.

Not that the story matters much in a film like this, but director Thor Freudenthalís movie centers on Bruce (Jake T. Austin) and Andi (Emma Roberts), a pair of orphaned siblings, whose foster parents are Lois (Lisa Kudrow) and Carl Scudder (Kevin Dillon). Constantly searching for some semblance of a normal, fulfilling childhood, Bruce and Andi secretly care for a dog named Friday. When Friday gets out of the apartment and is lost, the kids go after him and find themselves hunted by the police for a crime that they know nothing about. They eventually find a safe haven at a hotel inhabited by two other dogs. As the number of dogs at the hotel continues to grow, the kids seek the help of their kind social worker, Bernie (Don Cheadle) to get them out of this bind.

Seriously, can we cool it on the dog-themed films, Hollywood?! In the last year, weíve had to deal with the likes of Marley & Me, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and even another entry in the Air Bud franchise. Unfortunately, like any other cinematic fad of the moment, weíll probably have to deal with plenty of canine cinema in the coming years. Ok, I get it, kids of all ages love cute, cuddly dogs, but at this point (even though I have kids of my own), I would much rather see a series of direct-to-DVD sequels to Cujo. Such a franchise could even make this horrible trend come full circle and have everyoneís favorite rabid dog take down some Chihuahuas or even Air Bud, himself.

The biggest question that arose during the film was ìWhat the hell is Don Cheadle doing in this?!î Of course, heís the best part about this exercise in futility, but itís still tough to watch him, knowing that heís simply slumming it to collect a paycheck. The human characters are secondary in a film like this anyway, but at least the young stars of the show (most notable, Miss Roberts) are never annoying and quite good at times. Kudrow is downright awful as their foster mom, and itís a real shame that Dillon is so annoying since he garnered quite a bit of respect recently thanks to his Johnny Drama role on Entourage. When all is said and done, the big question is dog-oriented, and, yes, nearly all of these canines are cute as a button. There are even a few instances where Freudenthal shows a bit of filmmaking flair and a unique style, but those are few and far between, and weíre left with a clichÈd family- friendly movie about dogs. Woof.

DreamWorksí Blu-ray disc doesnít disappoint in the audio and video department, with the Dolby TrueHD track being a strongpoint, and I did not expect to be writing about a hearty extras collection, but thereís quite a bit to choose from here. Other than the informative audio commentary, the extras are geared towards kids, though, serving as merely throw-aways for an adult audience.

Chuck Aliaga April 27, 2009, 2:13 pm