The film begins from a dog's point of view and we quickly learn there is just one thing on this pooch's mind - food. Friday must be the greediest dog in the world, snatching half-eaten hot dogs from the hands of surprised diners, licking spoons and munching bacon when the owner's back is turned.
The main characters are played by Emma Roberts (niece of Julia) and Jake Austin (from the Disney show Wizards of Waverly Place). Based on the book by Lois Duncun, Hotel for Dogs tells the story of sixteen year old Andi and her 11-year-old brother, Bruce. Currently being Fostered by Kudrow and Dillon, the siblings have been in five different foster homes since their parents died. They only have each other - and their secret dog, Friday. While trying to house him Andi and Bruce discover an abandoned hotel which they soon transform into a hotel for unwanted dogs. With some help from new friends and Bruce's brilliant gadgets, they take care of every stray they come across. The gadgets really are excellent and are reminiscent of those seen in Honey I Shrunk the Kids. The food dispensing machine, dog-walking machines, a doggy lift and more are what make the film stand out, maintaining interest in the film for kids and adults alike.
The parallels between the orphaned children and the homeless dogs are clear - all are unwanted and in need of someone to love them. While in a pet store Andi is told that no-one wants the older dogs, only the puppies, a fact Andi knows all too well as it's the same problem she and her brother face. Whereas the children have only The Twits (Kudrow and Dillon) who heat up microwave food and criticise them, the dogs have the children who feed, clean, exercise and play with them.This film should be viewed from the perspective of a child as children are who Hotel for Dogs is aimed at. Connecting with my inner child in order to appreciate the film and write this review wasn't difficult as it goes. This reminded me of Beethoven, Home Alone and many other films I watched growing up and it was amusing and entertaining with a strong element of adventure which is what children enjoy the most. The real stars are the dogs of course with their various characters and quirks - virtually every dog was represented here; a real draw for animal lovers. The humanising of dogs has always been something that has entertained people and this film is no exception - there's the leader, the chewer, the cute one and even Romeo and Juliet dogs! I was also pleased that they weren't computer-generated but cleverly trained real dogs, but who gives Oscars to dogs or dog trainers?
EXTRAS **** More often than not, kids' films have better bonus packages than films aimed at adults, and Hotel for Dogs is no exception. For a start, thre's an amusing and cheerful audio commentary with director Thor Freudenthal, producer Ewan "Jack" Leslie, and stars Emma Roberts and Jake Austin (every second scene in the film is Roberts' "favourite bit"); four behind-the-scenes featurettes - A Home For Everyone: The Making Of Hotel For Dogs, That's The Coolest Thing I've Ever Seen! (a look at the making of all the Rube Golberg machines used in the film), K-9 Casting (how they chose their dog actors), and Bark On Cue! (how they got the dogs to perform on cure); deleted scenes; photo galleries; and the theatrical trailer.