Cover Art and Menus: 5/10
Packed with dogs, the cover for our movie today is your standard kid’s movie fare. The cover for Hotel for Dogs features the two main human characters, surrounded by and endless collection of cute pooches. Who doesn’t love dogs, right? It is a bit straight forward, but as I have said before, kids movies get a bit of a pass from me, as the more straightforward the better. The cover is just alright. (The “bark out loud funny” quote is a bit much.)
The menu is a bit strange. It starts out with video from the movie, and then kind of morphs into the dog collar that Friday is wearing. It then turns into a kind of cheesy hotel layout that looks like it was slapped together in a few minutes on some second rate software program. For a movie that is trying to veer away from being seen as totally cheesy, this menu did not fit the bill. It just did not seem to fit with the rest of the movie.
- Commentary By Thor Freudenthal, Ewan “Jack” Leslie, Emma Roberts & Jake T Austin – The audio commentary was a pretty decent group effort, and was decent to listen to. They touch on everything from production to working with the dogs, and the kids are interesting to listen to, as they talk about the movie, which they obviously loved making.
- A Home For Everyone The Making Of Hotel For Dogs – This extra clocked in at about 25 minutes, and was your standard making of feature, which includes interviews and information on the very interesting movie set, which obviously was complicated by the inclusion of hundreds of canines. A good deal of the extra focuses on the dogs themselves, and how the trainers dealt with such a dog-heavy type of movie. It is obvious that just about everyone involved in the movie was a card-carrying dog lover.
- That’s The Coolest Thing I’ve Ever Seen – In this short extra, they designers went into how they created the numerous contraptions that in the film were designed by Bruce to help take care of the dogs in the hotel. A lot of work went into the design and creation of these machines, and the end result was amazing, as the working machines looked and felt like something that would have come from the mind of an eleven year-old boy.
- K-9 Casting – In a movie about dogs, of course the dog casting was important. This short went into detail about how the numerous types of dogs were chosen for their looks, and how the main dog characters were actually played by more than one dog. I still am in awe at how a movie like this gets made with all of these animals running around. I still can’t get my dog to come to me when I call, and these dogs are actually acting.
- Bark On Cue – Obviously there are a lot of barking dogs in this movie. Bark on Cue was a cool look at how the production team assembled a large collection of barks, as most of the audio was added into the movie after filming, for obvious reasons. With each dog, there was a trainer off camera who was usually yelling commands, so recording the audio as it happened was practically impossible. Here, we got a glimpse into just what took place when the camera was rolling.
- Howl-arious Deleted Scenes – As far as deleted scenes go, while these are not “howl-arious,” there were a few that I actually thought could have been included in the movie. One particular shot explained that the kids thought that the Scudders really were only looking after the kids for the government money, while a few others were left out for good reason. Not a bad bunch of deleted scenes overall, with about 8 included.
- The Pedigree Adoption Drive – This is a public service announcement about adopting dogs. Pretty straightforward, but a nice inclusion to get families talking about the issue.
- And More – There are also a theatrical trailer and a few still shots from the movie. A nice collection of extras, but not too much. I found it so be a decent mix for a kid’s movie, and the lack of bad DVD games was a good thing.
The Movie: 7/10
Hotel for Dogs is one of many dog movies that was created as a family film. We have seen a glut of dog films lately, and as far as dog movies go, Hotel for Dogs is a pretty decent one. Created from the Lois Duncan book, Hotel for Dogs is a story about two kids who are in the foster care system, who have trouble fitting in, especially due to the fact that they keep their little dog Friday with them. The two kids Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin) are adorable kids who are stuck with the unlikely foster parents the Scudders (overplayed by Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon), who are hell bent on making life miserable for the two kids. The kids struggle to not get in trouble, and their social worker Bernie (Don Cheadle, who just brings credibility to any movie he is in) works hard to not only find the kids an adoption situation where they can stay together, but also tries to keep the Scudders from kicking the kids out.
Friday ends up running away to an abandoned hotel, where the kids find two more stray dogs out on their own. The kids decide that this is perhaps a great place to keep Friday safe, and they also decide that they will adopt the two other dogs as well. As things turn out, with the help of some friends, the hotel ends up becoming a shelter of sorts where the kids attempt to rescue all of the stray dogs in the city, to keep them away from the evil dog catchers. Bruce is a bit of a mechanical genius, and ends up making contraptions to automatically feed the dogs and take care of all of their issues, while the kids and their 3 friends try to make the place run as smoothly as possible, without having the world find out. The work done my the kids is a monumental task, and at one point, things go horrible wrong, as the contraptions fail and the world ends up finding out about the kid’s attempt to take over the hotel.
As one can see from the lack of material in my review, the story is not overly complex. The story deals with two kids who are kind of like unwanted dogs, who end up creating a family for themselves and the dogs at the same time. It is cute, and touching at the same time, but not too overly dramatic. It is a good paced kid’s film, and the adult characters, while at times a bit overdone, are still genuine and funny for the most part. I really liked the kid’s acting, and I thought that while the ending was over the top, it was a nice way to wrap things up.
My son really enjoyed the movie, and as far as I was concerned, it was entertaining and kept my interest, which is a good thing. Hotel for Dogs is a nice movie for the entire family, and while not overly humorous, it had me chuckling every now and again. I am sure that I will be watching Hotel for Dogs again in the future.
Audio & Video: 8/10
The video for Hotel for Dogs is very well done. The colors are bright when they need to be, and the darker scenes looked fantastic. Presented in 1.78:1 with an AVC encode, the movie looked pristine. It was funny that my wife who was watching is starting to notice the extremely sharp contrasts and colors of Blu-ray. She even mentioned the fact that some of the movie’s colors look almost fake, which is a good way of describing some of the detail and color depth that Blu-ray is able to show.
The audio was very well done also. Nice use of the 5.1 Surround Sound, and I noticed that the dialogue was as clear as a bell. I know that audio is a subjective thing for most people, but I was very pleased with the mix and presentation for Hotel for Dogs, and thought that it really worked for this type of film.
Another dog movie for kids. While I could easily be jaded at this point by the glut of canine movies for children, I actually thought Hotel for Dogs was good. It is not what I would call a great kid’s movie, but it really was a fun watch, and it was heartwarming and charming, due in part to the dogs, but also due to the acting. As I stated before, this is one that my son really enjoyed, and we will watch again, which is always a good sign in my house that the movie was good.
Overall Score 7/10