Another dog has his day at the movies |

Another dog has his day at the movies

Courtesy DW Studios LLC and Cold Spring Pictures

The kids are cute and the pooches are still cuter in this latest addition to the doggie genre. In 2008, “Dog Gone,” “Bolt,” “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” and “Marley and Me,” gave dog lovers their fix. “Hotel For Dogs” primes the new year. It falls short of receiving a loud bark, but earns a paws-up for its animals-as-part-of-the-family theme.

The film also speaks to the need for placing older, parentless children with loving families, because most folks prefer puppies and babies to their older counterparts.

Andi, 16, and Bruce, 11 (Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin), are orphaned siblings fostered by the Scudders (Kevin Dillon and Lisa Kudrow), a couple in it solely for the paycheck. Twice a day, as called for by the foster parent contract, Lois Scudder serves meals. In her case this is microwaved food that looks less appetizing than kibble.

The kids sponsor and care for a supersmart Jack Russell terrier named Friday. Prohibited from having a dog in the apartment, the pair conceals Friday in their bedroom, prompting Bruce to rig a motorized basket to ferry Friday several stories from the bedroom window to the ground floor.

Efforts to feed the dog involve some light-fingered tactics that occasionally lands the duo in hot water. Thankfully, Bernie (Don Cheadle), their sympathetic social worker, steps in to plead their case.

The concern we feel for these youngsters is strongly linked to their heroic commitment to Friday, and to their decision to refurbish an abandoned, once luxurious hotel into a housing solution for him and other dogs. Soon Andi and Bruce undertake a rescue mission for all strays in their town. Puppy love blooms between Andi and pet store manager Dave (Johnny Simmons), who provides animal transport via a truck decorated to look like Snoopy.

Given the 72-hour hold followed by euthanizing policy of their local pound and its gung-ho dogcatchers, the kids hatch an illegal, but laudable plan to rescue the animals and deliver them to a no-kill shelter.

The Hotel for Dogs setup is sufficiently compelling to suspend our disbelief, but as the film continues it turns the serious plights of abandoned kids and dogs into a wacky sitcom. Nevertheless, dog-lovers can’t help but approve of a film attempting to highlight the unhappy fate too frequently befalling our four-footed friends. Animal trainer Tasha Zamsky and her team of wranglers help the message go down with a circusful of adorable tricks. I give it two-and-half woofs.

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