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Review: 'Hotel for Dogs' hits the mark (mostly)

January 16, 2009 |  3:30 pm

The new movie "Hotel for Dogs" hits theaters today, and Times film critic Betsy Sharkey (you might know her as the adoptive mom of Riley the Greyhound, whose story she's chronicled here on Unleashed) says it's a winner (mostly):

Think of "Hotel for Dogs" as a sort of "Mission: Impossible" with canines ... without Tom Cruise, or the international intrigue, or those scary, slice-you-up-into-little-bits bad guys. What it is packed with is lots of sneaking around, very cool gadgets, excellent stunts and some clever kids, though not in the precocious, all-adults-are-stupid way.

In the hands of first-time feature director Thor Freudenthal, this whimsical family comedy feels as if it could have been plucked out of the 1950s, before cynicism seriously set in. It's there from the first frames with a beautifully rendered "Father Knows Best" family -- everyone smiling. But of course the director and the rest of us know the world is darker than that, so the beautiful family turns out to be cardboard cutouts in a store window display looking out on city streets that have a layer of grime.

One of Sharkey's favorite elements of the film is not the dogs at all -- it's the straight-out-of-Rube-Goldberg's-brain contraptions that figure prominently in the storyline. 

For more information on the film, check out Sharkey's review and a gallery of behind-the-scenes photos taken during filming by photographer David Strick.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Video: Los Angeles Times

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