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HOTEL FOR DOGS

SYNOPSIS:
16 year old Andi (Emma Roberts) and her brother 11 year old Bruce (Jake T. Austin) have been housed in five different foster homes since their parents died two years ago. Their social services representative (Don Cheadle) warns them their current situation is their final chance to stay together. But Andi and Bruce can no longer hide their dog Friday from their unaccommodating guardians (Kevin Dillon, Lisa Kudrow) and start to look for a good home for their beloved four-legged friend. When they stumble on an abandoned hotel where three stray dogs have already made their home, they transform it into a haven for stray dogs, aided by Bruce's innovative mechanical inventions. There's also help at hand with new friends Dave (Johnny Simmons), Heather (Kyla Pratt) and Mark (Troy Gentile).

Review by Louise Keller:
It's funny, heartfelt, the dogs are adorable and there's even a moral reinforcing the importance of family. What more could you want from a family adventure fantasy over the holidays? Kids of all ages will squeal with delight when they see dozens of dogs of all sizes queuing up for the doggie-loo or sitting at the long trestle table waiting for doggie dinner to be served. But the pleasures are not restricted to kids. Adapted from Lois Duncan's popular children's book, it's doggie-thumbs up to this fresh and breezy family-friendly film that not only tells its delightfully inventive story well, but is ultra cute to boot.

In the opening sequence, we meet Friday, the little white terrier with a large appetite, who knows his way around the neighbourhood. Before long we discover that his loving owners Andi and Bruce, played by Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin, are equally street smart as they run rings around their ghastly pseudo rock-musician foster parents, hilariously portrayed by Kevin Dillon and the wonderfully funny Lisa Kudrow. I love the scene in the kitchen in which the terrier gets the better of Kudrow, woofing up the freshly cooked bacon as Kudrow turns her head. But naturally the film's main highlights involve the many dogs who steal every scene as they partake in the imaginative mechanical inventions including walking on treadmills for exercise, taking turns in simulators for amusement and being cleverly trained to pee and do their doggie-doo. There are dozens of dogs and each has its own personality - one likes to fetch, one likes to chew, one likes to howl and Romeo, the tiny hairless Chinese Crested dog is in love with his Juliet, the white toy poodle.

The dogs are superbly trained and all the human cast is excellent too. Roberts and Austin are convincing as the siblings who risk everything to save the dogs they love, and there's good support by Johnny Simmons as Andi's romantic interest Dave, who drives a black and white pet delivery van complete with black nose, wagging tail and pink tongue. Kudrow is a riot with her incongruous facial expressions and Don Cheadle is solid in a lightweight role that is a welcome change of pace.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

HOTEL FOR DOGS (PG)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon, Don Cheadle, Johnny Simmons, Kyla Pratt, Troy Gentile

PRODUCER: Ewan Leslie, Lauren Shuler Donner

DIRECTOR: Thor Freudenthal

SCRIPT: Jeff Lowell, Robert Schooley, Mark McCorkle

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Grady

EDITOR: Sheldon Kahn

MUSIC: John Debney

PRODUCTION DESIGN: William Sandell

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 15, 2009







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