Hotel for Dogs (Blu-ray) Studio: DreamWorks Rated: PG (for brief mild thematic elements, language and some crude humor) Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish, French Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH+ Time: 100 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date: 2009 Blu-Ray Release Date: April 28, 2009 I, and a good portion of people I’ve ever met, fall into one of two categories: you’re either a dog person or a cat person (or a Beatles fan or an Elvis fan, but I digress). So when Hotel for Dogs arrived I was quite jazzed since I am a dog person, and I really enjoy flicks with the mischievous little canines as they run around, get into mischief and strike the cutest poses you’ve ever seen. This certainly holds true in this movie, and it focuses on the brother and sister pair of Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin), two foster kids who seem to get in as much trouble as their pup, Friday. Actually, it seems it’s more because of Friday and they’re hiding of him from their latest set of foster parents (Kevin Dillon and Lisa Kudrow) that the youngsters are in trouble. One night while chasing Friday and eluding the law, the dog takes them into an old and abandoned hotel, where they find a couple other strays. Over the next few days, they decide to utilize the building as a refuge for the city’s strays, and mechanical boy-genius Bruce makes all types of contraptions to occupy the ever active minds of the dogs. Andi enlists the help of Dave (Johnny Simmons), a cute young boy who works at the local pet shop, to help her and her brother fix up the hotel. Trouble is at every turn for the enterprising youngsters as the dog catchers are trying to track down the sometimes noisy strays. The kids are also dealing with their social worker, Bernie (Don Cheadle), who knows the troublesome kids are good, just simply misguided and in need of a good home. Soon, the hotel and its occupants draw far more attention than it needs and it is going to be up to the kids to outsmart the powers that be to save all the dogs. Hotel for Dogs is a pretty good kid flick, a fun, light romp following an ages old formula for the genre and adding in the dog aspect for good measure. I hadn’t heard of the movie before the review, and I was waiting in dreaded anticipation for the dogs to talk, and thankfully, they never did. Kudos should go to the kid actors in the picture, each of whom turns in good performances for such young ages. The plot itself really doesn’t portray any of the big issues (teen rebellion and delinquency, the poor state of social services) as too great a hurdle to overcome, nor should it. When you have that many dogs running around, who really cares (dog person, remember?). Bruce’s contraptions, such as the car ride simulator, show a good amount of creativity and give the dogs some more to do instead of just posing. One of my only gripes about the picture is the tired out portrayal of the dog catcher or the cops as being one dimensional authority figures who lack really any caring or compassion for the dogs or the kids. Now, as adult as our kids seem to be even at younger ages, I think young viewers may grasp some of the subtleties of a more complicated villain (take any of the Harry Potter nemesis’s, for example). Regardless, this is a fine flick to watch with the kids and the dog, the latter of which will truly enjoy such a form of entertainment suited to his canine tastes. Movie: ***/***** Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment. The Blu-Ray disc is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Given the recent vintage of this release, we are given an excellent video transfer that is crisp and clean, lacking any noticeable dirt, noise, or other negative artifacts. Detail and sharpness are excellent, as is dimensionality. Colors are beautifully natural, clean and bold, showing a nice palate. Flesh tones are smooth and accurate and you can see some nice detail in each of the actors faces. Black levels are consistent in quality to the rest of the image and show a fair amount of detail. I was very impressed with the scenes of the kids chasing Friday into the hotel, as you could make out plenty of the action in the shadows as you marvel at just how black they are. This is a very nice image. Video: ****/***** Audio: The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI. I watched the feature with the Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 track engaged. The soundtrack is very active using the surrounds to great effect giving us a great soundstage and sense of environments, especially in the hotel scenes. Panning effects were great across all the channels. LFE’s were used quite often, but they were not the most bold. Voices are clear and natural, as is the rest of the soundtrack, and the music is tonally quite pleasant. Audio: ***.5/***** Bonus Material: all items are in HD unless otherwise noted. Commentary by Thor Freudenthal, Ewan “Jack” Leslie, Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin: I’m not quite sure this movie needed a commentary, but we get one anyhow. The contributors talk about how much they loved the dogs and reminisce about the shoot, much of which is already covered in the other docs. A Home for Everyone: The Making of Hotel for Dogs (19:07): a usual EPK that interviews the cast and crew as they talk about the movie and the shoot. That’s the Coolest Thing I’ve Ever Seen! (5:59): production design and special effects are discussed, including Bruce’s contraptions for the dogs. This was one of my favorite aspects of the movie, so I was glad to see more about this. We are also shown just how smart dogs are and how they utilized the machines. Howl-arious Deleted Scenes (10:39): not the worst pun you’ll read in this review. Eight deleted scenes, which are more scene extensions than anything else, basically re-iterate what we already have seen. Bark on Cue! (4:43): not surprisingly, the shoot was incredibly complex, as was post-production. With that many dogs, there are that many trainers and a lot of sound issues that go with it. K-9 Casting (6:26): cast and crew talk about the choices of dogs for the movie, and how they searched for animals with the most personality. The Pedigree Adoption Drive (:32): a quick PSA encouraging us to adopt or donate time to help dogs. Theatrical Trailer. Photo Galleries. Bonus Material: ***.5/***** Conclusions: I’ll apologize for the next statement in advance: Hotel for Dogs is a p-awesome picture that both I and my Welsh Terrier, Killian, enjoyed immensely, and I’m sure my son will enjoy someday too. The story doesn’t pander too much to the kid friendly genre and there are some good dog gags. The Blu-ray video transfer is excellent, and the audio track is no slouch either. The relevant bonus features round out a nice release.