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Hotel For Dogs

Reel Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild thematic elements, language and some crude humor.
Released in Theaters: Jan. 16, 2009
Genre: Comedy, Animals
Runtime: 100 minutes
Directed by: Thor Freudenthal
Cast: Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Don Cheadle, Johnny Simmons, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon

Sex/ Nudity: Teenagers flirt, and one couple kisses. A character calls girls “fine” and “hot.”

Violence/Gore: Mostly slapstick violence. Characters fall, dogs are chased (and sometimes caught by dogcatchers), characters slip on poop and pee.

Profanity: Mild. “Stupid” is as bad as it gets.

Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 7 and older who like funny and heartwarming movies about animals. Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin are also a draw.

Will Parents Like It? It’s fairly mild, all things considered. The most iffy thing is how the foster parents treat Andi and Bruce. They don’t get physical, but they’re awful emotionally, locking up the food in cupboards and feeding the kids horrible frozen dinners. Also, the dogs get locked up in an animal shelter, which might be sad for some kids.

Review: Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin) are two orphaned siblings living with a self-absorbed, hippie foster couple (Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon). They’re the worst foster parents in the world – locking up their food in the cupboard and feeding the kids icky frozen dinners. But worst of all, they hate dogs. And that’s not good news for the kids, who’ve been secretly harboring their beloved dog, Friday.

Fearing it won’t be long before their secret is discovered, the kids set off to find a new home for their pup. Along the way, Friday ducks into an old hotel where the kids discover a few other stray dogs who’ve been hanging out there. The abandoned hotel is amazingly complete — all the furniture is still there, including exercise equipment, dishes, everything.

One thing leads to another, and soon enough, the kids are rounding up all the stray dogs in the city and providing a save haven for them at the hotel. As it turns out, Bruce is a whiz with inventions, so he rigs up all sorts of cool stuff for the dogs, including feeding machines and even a place for them to poop. You have to sort of suspend disbelief at this point, because there’s no way they could take care of a hotel full of dogs and have the dogs use all the equipment the way they’re supposed to! But they get some help from a few other kids, played by Johnny Simmons, Kyla Pratt and Troy Gentile.

Though the story seems unlikely, I love the way Andi and Bruce look out for each other as sister and brother. At one point, it looks like they might be separated, and it’s the saddest scene of the movie. But you get the feeling it’ll all end up alright, and it does.

Also, working on their behalf is a social worker, played by Don Cheadle. He and his wife both care deeply for the kids and want them to be happy. Overall, this is a cute movie for anyone who loves dogs or sweet stories.

Jane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies and TV. Visit her at Reel Life With Jane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; email jboursaw@charter.net.