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Hotel for Dogs

Dreamworks Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies; Rated PGBy Laura Broadwell

Siblings Andi, 16, and Bruce, 11, have bounced from foster home to foster home over the years. When they arrive at their newest placement--a small, filthy, city apartment--they are told by their offbeat, rock-musician foster parents that their dog, Friday, is not welcome to stay. As Andi and Bruce search for a home for Friday, they stumble upon an old, abandoned hotel, where a few stray dogs reside. Before long, Andi and Bruce (and several dog-loving friends) transform the Hotel Francis Duke into a happy, magical home for many of the city's strays. In the process, the kids also create a home for themselves, and find a family that transcends biological--even human--ties. When Andi and Bruce are offered another placement, three hours away, with foster parents who want to adopt them, they turn it down. And when the city's animal control officers get wind of the capers at the Hotel Francis Duke and take all the dogs to the pound, the kids put themselves (and the prospect of future foster placements) at risk to rescue them.

Hotel for Dogs is a sweet movie about the power of family and acceptance. While it features a pair of stereotypically mean, mercenary foster parents, it is tempered by the caring relationship between Andi and Bruce, as well as by the bonds they form with Bernie, their kindly, conscientious social worker, their new friends, and, most important, the dogs. In one of the film's final scenes, Bernie tells the authorities that, as a social worker, he's been trying to save kids for 15 years, but--much to their credit--Andi, Bruce, and their friends accomplished more in a brief time than he ever has. In short, he says, the children took in every dog that needed a home, whether he or she was old, abandoned, hard to adopt, scruffy, or disabled. And they gave each a name, a spot at the dinner table, and, of course, a place in the family.

At the end of the film, Andi and Bruce get their own forever family--a pair of kind, well-suited parents, who happen to love dogs. The Hotel Francis Duke is transformed into a luxury hotel, where canines can board while their families are away, and where abandoned dogs can live comfortably until they find a permanent home. As my 10-year-old daughter, Eleni, says, "Parts of the movie were really sad, like when the kids had to live with those terrible people. But I really liked it, because Andi and Bruce were so devoted to the dogs, and they all became one big family. I recommend the movie to kids ages eight and up."

Laura Broadwell is a writer, editor, and adoptive mother in Brooklyn, New York.

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