Like many parents trying to relieve cabin fever during the deep freeze, we went to see Hotel for Dogs yesterday afternoon. I was very surprised, unpleasantly in parts, but mostly pleasantly.
I didn't know that the main characters, Andi and Bruce, were foster children on their fifth home, or that their current foster parents were Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon, musicians better suited to Rock Band than performing their rock music live. The FPs kept the refrigerator and the pantry bolted, and like all other foster families before them, didn't know Andi and Bruce were still trying to keep their dog Friday on the fire escape. Andi and Bruce commit minor crimes in order to feed Friday, and their antics escalate -- but with the feel of necessity -- over the course of the film.
Andi and Bruce are clearly loved by their social worker, Don Cheadle, the most consistent adult figure in their lives over the past three years. But when he finds them a promising placement -- three hours away with a fine family -- can they accept? By that time they are running the dog hotel.
Andi has kept it secret from their new friends that she is a foster child. She has to tell lies and more lies to keep the secret. Still, she is becoming attached to these friends, and it's clear that the kids can't leave the dogs . . .
"Adopt," "adopt," "adopt," as an alternative to being destroyed (the enemy is a "kill" shelter) rubs me the wrong way as it does in real life, and it's compounded by the analogy between the foster children and the dogs they foster covertly. This has raised questions from Miss I about whether dogs ever stay with their natural families, and whether our dog should have been allowed to stay with her natural mother (not on the "foster farm" from which we retrieved her). Clearly these questions are not actually about the dog.
Andi's burgeoning romantic relationship with a pet store employee raised concerns for me about dating and age -- after all, Andi is a minor (16), attending a party that appears to be unchaperoned to meet a boy who might be 18. And of course, they kiss, which the movie (and this mom) could have done without.
I won't give it all away. I will however confess that I cried at the entirely predictable ending -- I kind of liked Cheadle as a social services employee that could also be a hero.