|Hotel For Dogs|
|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Wednesday, 22 April 2009|
Two siblings, Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin) are foster children. We don't know what happened to their parents, but seemingly they died. The pair is 16 and 11 years old, respectively. Bernie is their child services representative, and is trying like crazy to find them a permanent home. I can see where this is leading already.
Andi and Bruce (not the names that I would have chosen for this children's characters, but hey, to each his own I guess) are some troublemakers. They scam pawn shops and are always finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their current foster parents, Lois and Carl Scudder are punk rock hillbillies. They treat the children horribly, as to be expected, else we wouldn't have a reason for the film to carry on.
Since they were little, Andi and Brice have had a little dog, Friday. They have been able to conceal him from their foster parents for years. When Friday is picked up by Animal Control, they bribe the officers to let him go, as there is no way to involve their foster parents. It doesn't take long before Friday and the bro/sis are in trouble again. Already on the cops' watch list, they flee from a crime scene at which they just happen to be crossing the street. Friday runs into an old rundown hotel and Brice and Andi follow. Inside the hotel they find Friday curled up with two other dogs. They have made the hotel their home. This comes at an opportune time, as they have decided that Friday needs a new home so that he doesn't get caught by Animal Control again.
When Andi goes out for dog food for the three of them, she runs into Dave (Johnny Simmons), the "cute" boy that she fawns over. He persuades her to take three more dogs back to her "rescue shelter." When Dave sees the rundown hotel he volunteers to help. Dave's fellow co-worker, Heather (Kyla Pratt) stows away on their vehicle and also volunteers to help.
Bruce is a mechanics genius. He is able to build devices to take care of everything. He builds machines that simulate car rides for dogs, feeding time, and even an automated potty room. The kids have fun and decide to take their "rescue shelter" one step further. They start to roam the streets and picking up stray dogs before Animal Control can get to them. They even rescue the dogs straight out the back of the Animal Control van. Their hotel is now full of dogs. Bruce even keeps a hotel log of all the dogs, their names and where they were found. Bruce and Andi have created their own little family.
When Bernie informs the children that he has found them a permanent home, but that it is three hours away, Andi and Bruce decline. It isn't long after that when the police show up at the hotel, arrest Andi and Brice and call Animal Control to pick up all the dogs. Andi and Bruce get sent away to separate foster houses while the dogs are scheduled to be terminated the following morning. But don't worry, it is Friday, Dave and Bernie to the rescue. Everyone lives happily ever after as to be expected.
While the dogs are cute and playful, the story is a yawn. It is predictable in its outcome. The acting is hit and miss. Emma Roberts, formerly the star of "Nancy Drew," has grown up quite nicely and does a good job here. Don Cheadle also does well, although his part is extremely similar to his role in "Reign Over Me." Jake T. Austin is alright, but his whining gets very annoying and doesn't fit his character. One moment he is designing the coolest invention and the next moment he is particularly sucking on his thumb.
The video is presented in an AVC MPEG-4 encode. The transfer is decent enough, but is not memorable. The black levels are stable, but a little weak in the lower-mids. The contrast and brightness are well balanced. The colors fluctuate, leaving some of the deeper colors dominant over the others in any given scene. The details and sharpness are spectacular. The old hotel features numerous textures. The source is pristine. There are no scratches or dirt. There is some minor film grain that is hardly noticeable past the intro. In the end, this transfer is bright and a treat to watch. Kids will thoroughly enjoy the colors of this film.
The audio is presented in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. The audio track is solid, but also not memorable. The surround channels have discreet ambience placed in them. Buy discreet I mean that there is a separation between the rear channels and front channels. The disconnect between the two fields leaves the consumer feeling out of sorts. I felt like I was bouncing back and forth from the front to the rear. There are some discreet sound effects in the rears, but not much. The most notable one was a flock of birds that fly from the rear channel to the front. The dialogue is solid, but may become a bit inaudible at times. There really isn't any LFE channel on this film. Despite some intense car chases and whatnot, the LFE channel never really kicks in. Still, this is a solid audio track. Although, my dog never jumped at any of the onscreen dog barking, which is odd for him, so maybe that means something. Then again, maybe not.
The Blu-ray disc comes with a few supplements to round out the package. First, there is an audio commentary with director Thor Freudenthal, producer Ewan Leslie and stars Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin. This is a well-rounded commentary that is very upbeat and engaging. "A Home For Everyone: The Making of 'Hotel For Dogs'" contains all the usual footage for a making-of featurette. "That's The Coolest Thing I've Ever Seen!" takes a look at the set design of the film. "K-9 Casting" is exactly what the title implies. "Bark On Cue!" looks at the dog training on the set. "The PEDIGREE Adoption Drive" is a PSA. There are some deleted scenes, photo galleries and trailers as well.
"Hotel For Dogs" has some moments and will be decent for dog lovers. However, the film doesn't have anything to offer the non-dog lovers. The video and audio quality are good and will surely hold the attention of the youngsters. This disc is worth taking a look at.