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HTF DVD REVIEW: Hotel for Dogs



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#1 of 3 Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted April 19 2009 - 07:31 AM

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MAIN FEATURESPECIAL FEATURESVideo1.85:1 anamorphicStandard definitionAudioDolby Digital: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1StereoSubtitlesEnglish, French, SpanishNone

The Feature: 3.5/5
Orphans Andi and Bruce (Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin) have been bouncing around foster placements for the past three years. Their current foster parents, Lois and Carl Scudder (Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon), provide them with basic necessities but little affection or respect. Social worker Bernie (Don Cheadle) is trying to find the kids a proper home, but since they refuse to be split up, it makes the task that much harder. The kids also have a secret - a pet dog named Friday, who they got before their parents tragically passed away. All this time they've managed to hide him, but it's becoming more difficult as he gets into all manner of mischief (usually involving food).

After a close call with the dogcatcher, Andi and Bruce stumble on an abandoned hotel that could be the ideal place to hide Friday, away from the Scudders and the city's animal control. The place already is home to stray dogs Lenny and Georgia, who quickly take in Friday as one of their own. When Andi goes out for dog food, Dave (Johnny Simmons), the pet store clerk, asks her to look after a few more dogs he's been having trouble finding homes for. With his help, the help of a couple other kids from the neighborhood, and Bruce's ingenious inventions designed to make pet care easier, the hotel soon becomes a promising alternative for the city's stray and outcast dog population. But a secret dog hotel can only be kept under wraps for so long and its discovery could be the final straw that ultimately splits up Andi and Bruce.

Though "Hotel for Dogs" has some obvious implausibilities, narrative shortcuts and underdeveloped characters, it also has some significant charms. There's an obvious one, if you're a dog lover. The other is if you love children, or at least feel for kids who are stuck in the foster care system. Though the film's depiction of the issue bares little resemblance to reality (which is understandable given that the film is made for children and based on a popular childrens' book by the same name), the major ideas around needing a home and needing to be loved are so universal that even a little Hollywoodizing can't diminish their significance. The involvement of a great actor like Cheadle doesn't hurt either, bringing to a comparatively brief role a depth of concern and character that ultimately anchors the film. That said, the film also seems fairly conservative with its "kid-friendly" moments, maintaining cuteness and charm without becoming saccharine or corny. In the end, "Hotel for Dogs" is an entertaining and heartwarming film that I have no trouble recommending for the entire family.


Video Quality: 4/5
The film is accurately framed at 1.85:1 and enhanced for widescreen displays. Colors are the real standout on the transfer, the generally bright and warm cinematography coming across quite nicely with great depth and saturation. Black levels and contrast are also quite good, particularly in and around the hotel, though there are a couple, brief cutaway-type shots where the contrast looks flat. Overall sharpness and detail are decent as well, though there is the typical standard definition drop in detail in the wide shots. The image is also devoid of physical blemishes and excessive digital manipulation, like edge enhancement.


Audio Quality: 3.5/5
The 448 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is mostly a front-heavy experience, with the usual support for the score in the surrounds and some light environmental effects here and there. A couple of scenes activate the entire array - most notably the kids' discovery of the abandoned hotel - but overall, dialogue (human and otherwise) dominates from front and center with little consistent sense of atmosphere or immersion. It's a workmanlike track with few surprises.


Special Features: 3/5
The special features package has a decidedly promotional feel, though the commentary and a couple of the featurettes dig a little deeper.

Commentary by Thor Freudenthal, Ewan “Jack” Leslie, Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin: Director Freduenthal takes the lead, offering a variety of information from legal-logistical requirements for filming children and animals to story and production development. The others mostly provide reactive comments, especially since its Roberts's first time viewing the final cut.

"A Home for Everyone: The Making of Hotel for Dogs" (19m07s): A standard promotional piece touches on major topics of development, story, characters and working with animals.

"That’s the Coolest Thing I’ve Ever Seen!" (6m00s): The film's production design and creation of Bruce's gadgets.

"K-9 Casting" (6m26s): The selection decisions and training for the canine roles.

"Bark on Cue!" (4m43s): The dog-related sound design and editing challenges.

Deleted Scenes (10m36s): Eight scenes, one of which includes some familiar faces from "The Daily Show".

Theatrical Trailer (2m32s)

Photo Galleries Over 75 images spread over three albums titled "On-Set Action", "Puppy Love" and "Dog People".

Previews: For "The Spiderwick Chronicles", "Charlotte's Web", "Barnyard", "Imagine That", "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa", "iCarly" Season 1

"The Pedigree Adoption Drive" (32s): PSA for the Pedigree Foundation, narrated by David Duchovny.


Recap

The Feature: 3.5/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

Not without its flaws, but ultimately charming, "Hotel for Dogs" gets good technical treatment and a decent - if mostly promotional - special features package.
One thing leads to another at cameronyee.com

#2 of 3 melindaregner

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Posted April 13 2011 - 08:46 AM

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It's really great having comments and reviews about a product before buying a sample. A big thanks!



#3 of 3 Russell G

Russell G

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Posted April 13 2011 - 10:18 AM

Who'd of thought out of all the movies reviewed on the forum...  Posted Image