REEL CRITIC:

“Hotel for Dogs” is a winning entry by DreamWorks that will delight dog lovers, children and adults, for its heartwarming story based on the book by Lois Duncan. Screenplay credits goes to Jeff Lowell, Robert Schooley and Mark McCorkle. The film is directed with obvious love by Thor Freudenthal, and the first-rate production design by William Sandell is full of wondrous invention.

Music is upbeat soft rock, perfectly suitable to the action portrayed, original music by John Debney.

The film never lags due to the expert editing of Sheldon Kahn and the cinematography of Michael Grady (director of photography.)

Bruce (Jake T. Austin) 13, and Andi, (Emma Roberts) 18, are foster children in the care of Lois (Lisa Kudrow) and Carl (Kevin Dillon), struggling rock 'n' roll performers. They are also under the supervision of Bernie (Don Cheadle), who saves them from many mishaps.

They covet their white-haired dog Friday, and have a soft spot for the stray dogs they come across.

Friday, on the loose, is always searching for food, especially savoring hot dogs, grabbing them from their bun off unsuspecting eaters, and ultimately stumbles on a deserted hotel, in the rundown part of town, called the Hotel Frances Duke.

When Bruce and Andi chase after Friday, they discover amazing artifacts left behind amid the clutter.

And young Bruce ingeniously devises play gadgets for the dogs and assembly line eating from individual bowls. The dogs have been trained to sit on toilets, with their blue wrapped bags dropped into a dumpster.

To solve the other elimination problem, a curtain that reveals a large golden fire hydrant does the trick, a shower head above sprays water to wash it away. They are helped by Troy Gentile as Mark who fancies Heather (Kyla Pratt.)

By this time, more dogs have been added from the pet store and also are rescued from the pound with the help of sympathetic pet food store employee Johnny Simmons as Dave, who is attracted to Andi (pretty Emma Roberts, the niece of Julia Roberts, a competent actress but missing the star quality of her aunt).

Bruce and Andi are always getting into trouble with the police or with Social Services. At times it looks like the brother and sister will be separated, and the dogs all taken away to the pound to be put away in 72 hours.

With the exception of Friday, who seems to be computer generated, most of the other dogs are apparently real, as reflected in the closing montage of the real-life dog owners. Also, when Bernie sees what Bruce has created inside the hotel, he gives a speech to assembled police and media, saying the unwanted dogs are innocent victims now happy in their new home, and then calls each one out by their name listed on the hotel roster, and the obedient dogs appear on cue.

The nonpredictable ending is a happy one for all concerned with the renovated Hotel Francis Duke transformed into the magnificent “Hotel For Dogs.”


?BETH TEMKIN has been a movie buff since the age of 3, when her grandmother took her to see “Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch.” ?BETH TEMKIN has been a movie buff since the age of 3, when her grandmother took her to see “Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch.”

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