Placed in a foster home that doesn't allow pets, 16-year-old Andi and her younger brother, Bruce, turn an abandoned hotel into a home for their dog. Soon other strays arrive, and the hotel becomes a haven for every orphaned canine in town. But the kids have to do some quick thinking to keep the cops off their tails.
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At The Movies
Hotel for Dogs (G) * * *
Be My Guest!
By ROBERT WALDMAN
Who let the dogs out was the name or title lyrics from a hit song a few years back. Keen observers could well rename that song who let the dogs in as it pretty appropriately describes the theme of a new film from Dreamworks Pictures still going strong across North America. Before it hits secondary screens I urge animal lovers everywhere to check out Hotel for Dogs, a joyous family outing now showing at the Esplanade 6, EmpireÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Granville Seven Theatre in Vancouver, Empire Studio 12, Colossus and Famous Players Silver City venues. Come to think of it, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to like animals to appreciate this uplifting rich and rewarding tale about two kids, a broken family and tons of on the loose critters.
2009 is called the year of the ox in the Chinese New Year. Fans of cinema may well classify 2009 as the year of the dog. Fido first got major exposure in late 2008 with the rambunctious Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Next out of the gate came the tear-jerker hit Marley & Me, based on a book. Next up is Hotel for Dogs, easily the most fun of this canine trio that spoofs all things human and animal.
Set I guess in Los Angeles, our story focuses on two down on their luck dead beat kids. It seems Andi and younger brother Bruce canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t catch a break. For the time being the pair are living with foster parents Carl and Lois, insane rock and roll pretenders who are as outlandish and flambouyant as they come. Just how these two became Ã¢â‚¬Å“protectorsÃ¢â‚¬Â of disadvantaged children is one for the books and beyond me.
Unfortunately not all is well in paradise and these kids, though they try, seem to be making mistakes aplenty. Only their mutt Friday seems to be holding the group together, unbeknownst to the make-shift parents who seem to be rather aloof as to whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s happening under their own roof. One things for sure, though. Social worker Bernie does his best to help the kids but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also at the end of his ropes.
When Friday goes missing it sets off a chain of events that sees these two kids come to the rescue of a group of dogs. Or is it the other way around? An answer to this depends, I guess, on your perspective. Andi and Bruce decide itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s up to them to save abandoned dogs by Ã¢â‚¬Å“housingÃ¢â‚¬Â them in a dilapidated hotel. Thus out of ruins comes an establishment for wildlife that threatens to throw the whole neighbourhood in a tizzy while breathing new life into a pack of animals who seemed destined for the pound Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or worse.
Slapstick fun highlights this family friendly movie. Here the dogs are the star and you can tell this 100 minute film was made with tender loving care. All shapes and sizes of mutts are well represented and theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re as huggable and loveable as can be imagined. Against this backdrop the humans stand tall too, despite paling in comparison to their four-legged friends.
Cast as the troubled teens are Emma Roberts (Blow) and Jake T. Austin (The Perfect Game). Together or separate you can sense the family connection here and both kids are engaging. Small wonder that acting tower of power Don Cheadle (OceanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 11) goes from Hotel Rwanda to an animal infested housing project but his demeanour as the caring social worker gives off hope and is perfectly in tune with this engaging movie that little ones should lap up. And Lisa Kudrow (Analyze This) and Kevin Dillon (The Doors) are insanely fun as the wacky, out to lunch foster parents who may yet give rock and roll a good name.
Director Thor Freudenthal succeeds here in crafting a nice tale about underdogs, doing the right thing, family values and the bond between man and animal. Bottom line, this film has heart
Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com
Don Cheadle Ã¢â‚¬â€œ in the Hot Seat!
With Robert Waldman
It isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t often you get a chance to go one on one with one of the top actors in show business. Well, not exactly. Versatile Don Cheadle took time out of his busy schedule to sit down for half an hour with journalists across North America to chat about his latest movie, Hotel For Dogs. Being the only Canadian participant was certainly an honour. Afterwards, I walked away quite impressed with the humanity and level-headedness of one of HollywoodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hottest stars.
Hotel for Dogs, a new family oriented film from Dreamworks set to charm kids and parents similarly, may be seen by some as being quite a departure for Don Cheadle. Known far and wide for his jarring work in such classics as Traffic, Crash, Hotel Rwanda and the just released Traitor, Hotel for Dogs actually has a lot more in common with this gifted actor than may appear at first glance. Cast as Bernie, the social worker to two Ã¢â‚¬Å“difficultÃ¢â‚¬Â children, Cheadle patterned that character on his own parenting skills. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Speak to kids straightÃ¢â‚¬Â was the approach taken by the director and this automatically appealed to Cheadle, as this is how he treats his own two daughters. Another thing in common with this story was that the family man has his own dog, appropriately named Candy, a nice Christmas present for his daughters who had always longed for a pet and good old dad finally gave in. That dog is somewhat of a cross between a pug and beagle and as loveable as any of the canines hamming it up in Hotel for Dogs, CGI effects and green screens et al. Many of the scenes with dogs were actually put in later. Ah, the joys of technology.
Shot in and around Los Angeles, what attracted Don to the story was the relationship between the adult social worker and the kids. Ã¢â‚¬ËœFamilies are what you make them out to be, and not just what youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re born into,Ã¢â‚¬Â according to Don and the story reveals that poignantly. Adoption is a key element in the story of Hotel for Dogs which is also full of fun, warmth and good-natured humour Ã¢â‚¬â€œ along with those adorable four legged charmers. Cheadle himself has quite a sense of houmour, as revealed when he told the ten journalists on the conference call that black kids should be adopted by rich white folks with trust funds. Just a joke he says, but with him it came across deliciously in this soft-spoken manner filmgoers have learned to love. Rather than simply yank the kids from home to home, which has happened in the past to Bruce and his sister, our kind-hearted Bernie does what he can to make the pair Ã¢â‚¬Å“comfortableÃ¢â‚¬Â and stable in their current foster parents place. No one likes the uncertainty of new surroundings so on the surface this seems like a sensible approach and could easily be applied to the real world - another way Hotel for Dogs can connect with audiences on mass.
Busy as always, we learn that in development from DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s company is a movie on the career of legendary music man Miles Davis. Unlike being a typical bio-pic this film is set to be a total departure from the norm. Being not just an actor, but a musician and producer Don has set up his own production company and currently looks for new, interesting material. Early on success with producing both Traffic and Hotel Rwanda has provided budding lessons for this craftsman whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not shy about taking a stand on things he believes in.
Tragedy in Darfur is where Don Cheadle gets serious. With a new president heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hopeful something can be done about this genocide, a campaign heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been active in for the past four years. Clearly heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hopeful new President Barack Obama can do something about the tragedy but unfortunately other global events like the current Middle East crisis and the economic meltdown are taking priority. On a less global issue as an actor Don Cheadle has his own opinions on a potential actorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s strike, with his position favouring the workers as opposed to the producers. Believing the last deal signed that gave away DVD rights was too miniscule for creators Don worries that those actors needing residuals from past work may not be getting their fair share of royalty revenues. Lucky for him his career has left him relatively secure as he himself acknowledges. Concern for his fellow workers, however, shows this manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s humanity and character. So again, to put it rather succinctly, Don Cheadle doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t support a strike, he just wants the authorization to consider a strike, which seems a reasonable compromise.
Those wanting to see Don suit up for action hero status may be sorely disappointed. One notable exception, however, will be an appearance opposite Robert Downey Jr. in next years highly anticipated Iron Man 2 follow-up to this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s blockbuster. Always ready to help others Don adds his two cents about working with first time directors. To this man the whole film belongs to the director, as itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s his/her vision. No one can tell how things will work out with a first time director, as was the case with Hotel for Dogs as Thor Freudenthal got his first big break. If only other actors would follow DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s approach in helping guide such newcomers to the process while not obstructing their view. True professional veterans donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t tell directors what to do, whether they are rookies or well-seasoned craftsmen. In the case of Don Cheadle he helps novices out by discreetly trying to help them see traps and give them advice at the same time, never infringing on their vision for the movie. Some of the directors Don would like to work with in the future include, but are not limited to, The Coen Brothers, Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Danny Boyle and David Fincher, all artists willing to take chances. Come to think of it, this sounds a bit like our interview subject today.
In selecting roles, Don goes after stories and scripts that are interesting. He decided to do Hotel for Dogs since it was a completely different genre for him. Unlike some actors who alternate between serious roles and lighter fare this thespianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s main concern is the story. And it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Ã¢â‚¬Ëœmatter how much dialogue is written for the players. What matters is how the characters interact and talk. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the key to a successful outing. Keep it real.
History will remember DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good work warmly. As a producer, one of the most challenging grinds was filming Traitor on four continents under 40 days. That involved considerable travelling, unlike the routes needed for the L.A. shot Hotel For Dogs. For Hotel Rwanda the filming was also rather problematic but that brought out the best in the cast and crew. Hard to film in Africa, the film won raves and so convincing was Cheadle in his portrayal that locals thought he was one of their own despite being born in the U.S. Total immersion in a foreign culture can do that to people.
Would Ã¢â‚¬â€œ be actors should take note. Due to the current nature of the business Don Cheadle says today to make it in Hollywood is a very tall order. Try to do regional theatre, he suggests. Good spots can be found in Minneapolis, Chicago and New York. Why even Vancouver has its fair share of local theatre where those with the show business bug could develop a successful career. Los Angeles in this day and age would be a lot more difficult to try to succeed in. But the dream still lives on and Don Cheadle has obviously lived it well.
Doing good for people is how you judge a man or woman. Besides being a champion for the defenseless in Darfur Don Cheadle supports a number of important social causes including, but not limited to, the Not On Our Watch Foundation as well as Ante Up for Africa, a poker foundation he established. Name a good cause and this decent man will be one of the first to lend a hand. Not at all interested in the star system, Don Cheadle is well grounded and seems to be treating his own family and those he works with as equals, a sign of both character and class. .
Odds are good that the warmth, humour and loveable mutts in Hotel for Dogs will bode well for Don Cheadle. He decided to do this movie as most of the other roles heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s excelled at were too Ã¢â‚¬Å“matureÃ¢â‚¬Â for his own children to see. Now a whole new audience will get a chance to experience one of HollywoodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s leading lights.
Hotel for Dogs opens Jan. 16, 2009 across North America.
Read more reviews by Robert at www.moviereviewssite.com