Sometimes when a film gets a one or two star review it makes me sit up and take notice and rather than deter me from watching that movie, it makes me want to watch it more. I want to seek out that film and find its merits and maybe celebrate its quirky flaws rather than condemn it outright. Because, apart from the odd exception, everyone in that film is bringing something to the party, from the actors to the tea lady a lot of effort and time went into making the film.

The films that seem to fall foul most often to the one or two star reviews are kids’ films, they get scathingly taken apart with seemingly no account taken as to who the target audience is. Yes the plot may be easy to predict but it was meant for 3 year olds, so get back up on your high horse Mr or Mrs Film Critic. The gaze of the film critic seems harshly fixated on the kids’ film or the rom-com, they are ready to expose its every flaw and damn it with a one star review. Its only crime being it doesn’t contain sub-titles or Danish people in black and white having joyless sex in a dirty bed sit.

Is it possible that a film intended for kids is best viewed in that context and an action flick is best viewed via the perspective of its target audience? To condemn a film just for its genre means that a lot of brilliant writing, creativity and just outright fun is glossed over, written out of history by the grumpy film critic. I want to celebrate the one star reviews for all their cheesy dialogue, implausible action and madcap brilliance.

Hotel For Dogs

Hotel for Dogs was released in 2009 and directed by Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters). Empire magazine’s review gave it just two stars and advised that it was “definitely not a mutt-see” movie. Well as it is ok for Empire to use terrible puns, I will take a chance and use one of my own and say that giving this movie two stars is really “ruff” treatment. Hotel For Dogs may be so generic you can stick a medal on it and call it general but it is also rather charming. Every kids’ film cliché is ticked off, unrealistically photogenic kids in foster care (tick), evil “dog pound guy” (tick), concerned guy who knows the kids are good deep down (tick), handsome teen love interest (tick), cute gimmick-in this case a hotel for dogs (tick). This falls into a new sub-genre of kids’ film, the “kids’ film with animal/CGI creature” (see Cat in The Hat and The Smurfs). But the main thing to remember is that this film is not necessarily aimed at me, it is aimed at kids and for families to enjoy together. Viewed in this light Hotel for Dogs is a very good film, it is not meant to be a slice of gritty realism but a happy film for small people with a positive message. Yes you can pretty much guarantee that the kids will end up with the caring guy (played with real warmth by the excellent Don Cheadle) and that the bad guys will end up with dog poop on their faces, but that’s ok because that’s kind of the point.

This movie is not part of the new breed of adult friendly kids’ films like Shrek, the sort of film deliberately marketed at kids and adults with added innuendo or knowing winks designed to keep the parents entertained as well as the children. This is a straight up feel good family film. We have enough cynicism and hurt in the world so in my book the planet could to with a bit more schmaltz and a bit of unrealistic happiness to warm our cold hard hearts. It has a great cast, including Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon and Don Cheadle and a rousing finale that is reminiscent of It’s a Wonderful Life. The community rallies round to save the hotel for dogs and maybe this sentimental view of community spirit seems dated now, consigned to Jimmy Stewart movies, but it left me with optimism and thinking wouldn’t it be nice if the world was a bit more like this and that is no bad thing. I highly recommend you check in to the Hotel for Dogs as soon as possible.

Empire Review Score: 2 Stars out of 5


My Score: 4.5 Bones out of 5

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