The plan was to have a review of “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” up this weekend, after watching it with my niece. Well, it seems she’s not quite old enough to watch that, so instead you get a review of the decidedly non-genre alternative we ended up watching instead.

Cast and Crew Information

Adult cast:
Don Cheadle as Bernie
Lisa Kudrow as Lois Scudder
Kevin Dillon as Carl Scudder

Child cast:
Emma Roberts as Andi
Jake T. Austin as Bruce
Johnny Simmons as Dave
Kyla Pratt as Heather
Troy Gentile as Mark

Screenplay by Jeff Lowell, Bob Schooley, and Mark McCorkle, based on the novel by Lois Duncan
Directed by Thor Freudenthal

Full cast and crew details are here.

Premise

A couple of foster children have bounced from house to house for three years, hiding the fact that they have a dog the entire time. They find a couple of strays in a local hotel, and start to turn it into a dog’s paradise.

High Point

The animals were very well trained, doing a lot of complicated stunts in the presence of other animals without a hitch.

Low Point

Pretty much everything else.

The Review

The originality is good on the animal stunt side, but the rest is painfully predictable in this adaptation. I give it 3 out of 6.

The effects were either in the contraptions, or were of the “101 Dalmations” variety where they filmed different groups of dogs and integrated them together in post production. The contraptions that were built were impressive, and if they had any of the blue-screened compilation portions as well, they were totally invisible. I’m doubting the latter, simply due to the poor quality CGI showing the exterior “after” shots of the hotel. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story is quite predictable. Ten minutes in, you’ll know the course the next 90 minutes are going to take, right down to the final resolution of pretty much everything. I give it 3 out of 6.

The acting should really be divided into three teams. The adults were passable, acting in the “delivering the lines that really give them nothing to work with” sense of the word. The child cast isn’t terribly impressive, leading me to believe they were casting physical types first and talent second. The animal cast did a great job, though. Kudos to their trainers for that one; there are a lot of dogs in this movie, required to execute synchronized actions frequently, and the team delivers. I give the acting 4 out of 6.

The production is minimal. Editor Sheldon Kahn had of the only three names I recognized in the credits, and he really kept this flick together. (The other two were producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ivan Reitman, the latter of whom likely suggest Kahn for the job, given their history together.) Lighting, cinematography and sound were pedestrian at best. I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response has its moments. It’s definitely a “cute” movie, with a handful of animal action scenes that entertain, but the plot designed to hold it all together feels like it keeps interrupting the good bits. I give it 3 out of 6.

Overall, I’d only recommend paying theater prices for this to parents bringing their kids. The younger generation (say, eight and below, older if they’re dog lovers) will enjoy it. I used to work at a theater, and I found there were two types of family movies. The prime example of the first type is “Toy Story.” When asking people on their way out if they enjoyed it, you get positive feedback from all ages, indicating a movie that really is meant for the entire family. This is a family movie of the second type, where the content is tame enough to get a G rating (in Canada; PG in the States) and allow the entire family to see it without worries of that kind. However, asking people if they liked it on the way out will get a resounding “yeah, it was awesome!” from the kids and a “well, the kids really enjoyed it” from the parents that came with them. If you haven’t got animal loving kids around, it’s not worth the theater ticket price. I give it 3 out of 6.

In total, Hotel for Dogs receives 23 out of 42.