Hotel for Dogs offers just the sort of kibble that makes the children in my family sit up and beg to go to the movies: A lovable assortment of pooches get into various kinds of doggy trouble, only to ultimately be saved by an equally lovable collection of up-and-coming teenage actors. What's not to love?
In truth, there's quite a bit not to love in Hotel for Dogs, including numerous plot holes, an erratic moral compass, and an inconsistent tone. Fortunately, the clever premise (taken loosely from Lois Duncan's 1971 children's story of the same name), the likeability of the leads, and the irresistible charm of the dogs keep this film engaging for kids and tolerable for adults.
Hotel for Dogs is the story of two foster kids determined to preserve their bond with each other and their eternally hungry mutt, Friday. Since their parents died four years ago, 16-year-old Andi (Nancy Drew's Emma Roberts) and her little brother Bruce (Jake T. Austin, best known from TV's Wizards of Waverly Place) have had to fight to stay together. Despite the best efforts of a sympathetic child welfare officer (Don Cheadle), the kids have bounced from home to home and now must live with the Scudders, a pair of miserly aging rockers.
Lois Scudder (Lisa Kudrow) is a modern-day Miss Hannigan (meets Spinal Tap); she keeps the food pantry padlocked and offers the children nothing but gruel for their two state-mandated meals per day. She also has a strict policy against pets. But Andi and Bruce know their only other option is to be moved into separate homes, so they endure their current conditions and are careful to keep their dog hidden. Things get complicated when Friday begins running repeatedly afoul of the city's Animal Control officers.
The kids stumble ...1