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</script></div>{/googleAds}Not surprisingly, the concept of family takes center stage in this kid-friendly tale that falls in line somewhere between an after-school-TV-special and a McGyver starter kit.

The story itself is as shallow and dumb as it sounds. But it's not targeted to those looking for deep and meaningful. Two orphaned kids, Andi and Bruce, stuck with greedy foster parents, Lois (Lisa Kudrow) and Carl (Kevin Dillon), find the true meaning of family by secretly harboring a pack of strays in an abandoned hotel. That's really all there is to it - except that a few of their friends become involved in the clandestine plot, and that social services and some evil Animal Control officers get thrown into the mix as well.

There's enough fun stuff going on to keep the youngest kids busy, and the plentitude of whimsical contraptions and creative gadgetry engineered by Bruce to feed and care for the dogs will certainly hold the interest of those at the upper end of the target demographic. But young teens will most likely be appalled at both the film's simplicity and at being seen in attendance. Parents aren't completely forgotten however, as they'll surely find themselves thoroughly entertained by all the cute and cuddly dogs that get plenty of screen time - and as a bonus, the dogs don't talk.

Hotel for DogsThe film's main theme is a well-worn one, but there's still plenty of blood to be squeezed from it. Jeff Lowell's script valiantly emphasizes the idea that family is wherever you find it - it's the gathering of those closest to you. And first-time director Thor Freudenthal nicely reflects that theme in both the children as well as in the canine family. In one particular scene Andi tells her brother that they really need to find a family for their dog Friday, but she's quickly reminded that they already are a real family. Certainly a nice perspective for everyone to keep on top of mind.

While the plot, gadgetry and wholesome family themes all do their part to keep this train plugging along, the real engine is the pack of lots and lots of cute and cuddly dogs. And Freudenthal never forgets the mileage that can be gained from filling the frame with the mugs of the adorable pooches. Each dog is allowed to become a recognizable character with its own personality and humorous quirks. For instance, Lenny, a 160-pound Bull Mastiff, likes to look out at the city through an open window and will howl incessantly if the shades are ever drawn shut. Georgia, a petite Boston Terrier is his little buddy that is perfectly content fetching wooden spoons hurled down the abandoned hotel's hallways by one of Bruce's mechanical inventions. Cooper, an English Bulldog chews up everything in sight, and Shep, a Border Collie tries to keep everybody in line with his herding instincts.

Hotel for Dogs could have easily become just another run-of-the-mill entry in the cgi-animated straight-to-DVD category, but the filmmakers made the right decision by using live action and plenty of dog training - to tell this funny little fantasy/adventure tale. The story doesn't really have enough meaty substance to give it the heft needed were it to try to compete with today's stellar animated works. As it is, the film harkens back to some of the great Disney family movies of the ‘60s and ‘70s, like The Big Shaggy Dog or Dr. Doolittle, when cute animals and plenty of tugs on the emotional heartstrings drove the stories, rather than acting or strong stories.

Component Grades
3 Stars
3 Stars
DVD Experience
3 Stars

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 16:9

Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese

Language and Sound: English: Dolby True HD; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; audio commentary; making-of featurette; deleted scenes; photo gallery; and more.


Commentary - Feature-length cast and crew commentary track featuring Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin


  • Gadgets, Gizmos & Cool Contraptions
  • K-9 casting
  • Bark on Cue!
  • A Home for Everyone: The Making of Hotel for Dogs

Deleted Scenes - Howl-arious deleted scenes

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging