Hotel for Dogs Movie Poster Image

Hotel for Dogs

Young pet lovers will get a kick out of dog comedy.
Popular with kids
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

May help teach kids the importance of community involvement.

Positive messages

Overall, despite a bit of iffy behavior on the part of the main characters, the film sends the message that young people can make a difference in their communities.

Positive role models

The siblings are very close, but they also do some iffy things to make money -- like pawning fake cell phones.

Violence & scariness

Slapsticky violence like characters falling, stepping on poop and pee, etc. Also references to dead parents and "awful" foster care.

Sexy stuff

Teenagers flirt, and one couple kisses, while another girl gives a boy a quick smooch. A teenage boy calls two characters "fine" and "hot."


Very mild -- "stupid."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Nickelodeon-produced comedy about an orphaned brother and sister (played by tween faves Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin) who set up a secret refuge for stray dogs is targeted squarely at the family market. Because the main characters are orphans living in foster care, there are some references to dead parents, but it doesn't get too emotional. And with no swearing or consumerism and only mild flirting (though there are a couple of kisses), the movie is age-appropriate for grade-schoolers while still appealing to tweens.

What's the story?

Based on Lois Duncan's children's book series, HOTEL FOR DOGS follows orphaned siblings Andi (Emma Roberts) and Bruce (Jake T. Austin) who secretly care for their beloved dog Friday while they live with self-absorbed, dog-hating foster parents. After Friday runs into a condemned old building, Andi and Bruce discover two dogs already living in the once-grand hotel and decide the place would make a perfect safe haven for the city's strays. With Bruce's knack for expertly engineered contraptions and the help of three local teens, the young animal lovers christen their little sanctuary the Hotel for Dogs.

Is it any good?


If Marley and Me is considered one of the most realistic -- and emotionally wrenching -- depictions of life with a dog, this is probably one of the least realistic (talking-canine flicks aside). Even if you go along with the concept that a boarded-up hotel would still be filled with furniture (even gym equipment!), it will be difficult for adults to believe that an 11-year-old could come up with all of Bruce's intricate inventions (a self-cleaning golden hydrant where the dogs can raise a leg, an automatic dog-bowl filler, a car-window ride simulator, etc.). That said, the kooky contraptions are probably the best part of the movie, and kids will get a kick out of the whole thing.

The movie's subplot is about whether the siblings will ever find a permanent home. When their bad-hair, rock-wannabe foster parents (played by Lisa Kudrow and Kevin Dillon) find out about the kids' antics, Andi and Bruce are forced to go to group homes. Luckily for them, their social worker, Bernie (Don Cheadle), is determined to find them a sanctuary -- just like they're intent on saving the city's endangered dogs. Predictably enough, there's a warm-and-fuzzy ending. Be warned, though: Young kids may want to go straight from the movie theater to rescue a dog at the pound.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why so many movie kids are orphans. Do you feel more sympathy for kids who don't have parents? Do they seem like bigger heroes than other kids?

  • Do movies like this ever make you anxious about your own family? Parents: Talk to your kids about any fears or worries they might have about being without you.

  • Kids: Can you think of ways that your actions can make a positive change in your community?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 16, 2009
DVD/Streaming release date:April 28, 2009
Cast:Don Cheadle, Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin
Director:Thor Freudenthal
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Book characters
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:brief mild thematic elements, language and some crude humor

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Kid, 12 years old April 13, 2014

Quite original, but a bit of language (which is "cr*p")

Epicboy21 here, and I'll tell you the only thing that made the movie PG for language pretty much was that they use the term "we scr*wed up" or that a woman uses "cr*p" twice and a man says it once. The language is completely gratuitous, but otherwise it's very mild. Anyway, the movie's about two orphans that scam people by pawning fake cell-phones for $26, who are named Bruce (Jake T. Austin, Disney's Wizards of Waverly Place), and Andie (Emma Roberts: after Nancy Drew, whatever happened to her?); the two hatch an idea when they save some dogs to make a hotel for them, so it's the "Hotel for Dogs", where saving dogs is their business and helping them is their job. The G content would be: - A man is kicked in the groin, hard, but otherwise there's no violence other than suspense from running and chasing. - The main characters are orphans and they pawn for money. The PG content would be: - Kyla Pratt steps in dog poop by accident - They create a fire hydrant so dogs can pee there - The above-mentioned swearing Anyway, it is quite original, with this idea about the Hotel for Dogs, and the technology is an absolute highlight. In short, the acting isn't that bad, the slapstick and scatological humour is quite good, and there's a good sense of drama, and character development is just quite enough. The animals don't even talk (for once, yay!) DreamWorks did a good job. Some dogs are seen drinking, and one dog is described as only having "three legs"; the accident is seen but is mentioned. Anyway, thankyou for reading.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Parent of a 7 and 9 year old Written bytande April 30, 2010

Cute movie but discuss crime/police elements with your kids.

Cute factor with the dogs and various inventions is great for kids. However... the kids (main characters) are constantly getting into trouble with police, are involved in some kind of scam and there is some stealing and plenty of lying. Somehow this is done without the fast paced tension that is in a lot of kids movies, but there's a bit of a message that crime is OK if you have a reason so definitely discuss this with your kids.
Kid, 12 years old January 22, 2012

Jake T. Austin is so cute

I love Jake T. Austin! This film is great for anyone - WATCH IT!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models