Posted: 01/18/2009


Hotel for Dogs


by Laura Tucker

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Hotel for Dogs has a very strong message of evil and good, and that even doing wrong things for the right reasons can make it okay. Cute kids and adorable dogs tend to do that to movies.

We see how this whole karma thing with evil and good works out from the get go. A dog tied up to the outside of a shop turns his nose to every good smell that comes his way. This little white terrier takes off in search of the smell and finds a man sitting on the park bench eating a hot dog. The dog begs for the hot dog, and the man teases him with it, then pulls it away. Just after that the man is sprayed by a street puddle as a car drives by. Karma. Don’t be mean to dogs.

The dog’s name is Friday and lives with a brother and sister, Andi (Emma Roberts, Nancy Drew) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin, Wizards of Waverly Place). The term living with is used loosely here, as they aren’t allowed to keep him. They keep him tied up outside and sneak him into their foster parents’ home when they can, letting him sleep on a pillow embroidered with the words, “Bone Sweet Bone.”

It’s here we understand fully the unique version of good vs. evil. While Friday was stealing hot dogs from men on park benches, Andi and Bruce were putting rocks in cell phone boxes, shrink wrapping them, and selling them to pawn stores for cash. Caught and picked up by the police, they’re returned to their case worker, Bernie (Don Cheadle), who brings them back to their foster parents, Lois and Carl Scudder (Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon).

The Scudders are musicians, and not very good ones. They are the fifth set of foster parents Andi and Bruce have been with in three years, and it’s clear they’re looking for the cash. Lois is like Foster Mommy Dearest, putting locks on the food cabinets, and forcing the kids to eat what looks like gruel on plastic trays, and when they’re late, they’re told they’ll have it for lunch the next day.

Hiding Friday one day by shoving him out the apartment window where he uses a makeshift dumbwaiter created with a milk crate, rope and pulley to descend to street level, Andi and Bruce lose him and realize they can’t keep hiding him like this. It’s never explained exactly how, but their parents died three years before, and they’ve been hiding the dog from everyone all this time.

Catching up to Friday, the kids find him in an abandoned hotel, where he finds another two dogs hiding out, a big mastiff and a tiny boston terrier. They leave Friday in the care of these other dogs for one day, and when they’re trying to decide the next day where to go from here, Friday pulls up his Bone Sweet Bone pillow, circles around, and plops down, letting them know he’s home.

They enlist the help of two teenagers that work in a nearby pet shop and soon hatch the idea to take care of more dogs. The dog catchers are of course presented as evil, being they take the dogs to a pound that will destroy them within seventy-two hours. The kids set about changing the hotel into a place that caters to these dogs and steal the dogs away from the dog catchers, again changing the rules of right vs. wrong.

Regardless of being bowled over with the moral and theme of the film, it was really quite cute, the kids, the dogs, the story, the whole thing. Much of the fun comes from the inventions Bruce, a budding scientist of some sort, comes up with. He builds things in the hotel for the dogs to take care of themselves, so that they don’t have to be watched all the time, such as a feeding station at a large hotel dining room table, a door with a boot kicking it so the dogs can entertain themselves barking at the door, and a golden fire hydrant which you can probably guess what it’s used for.

The dogs are also extremely adorable, especially if you’re a dog lover, and there seems to be one of every breed once they officially start the dog hotel. The kids are just as cute, even when they’re breaking the law. Lisa Kudrow, normally cute, really isn’t in this role. She’s supposed to come off as mean and non-caring and does.

I saw exactly where Hotel for Dogs was going the whole time, but I didn’t ever seem to mind, as I laughed along with everything and said aww along with the rest of the crowd on cue.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker is a freelance writer providing reviews of movies and television, among other things, at Viewpoints and Reality Shack, and operates a TV blog, What’s Hot On TV as well as a celebrity gossip blog at Troubled Hollywood. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at

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