Monday, January 26, 2009

For the Dogs, All Right

Looks the like the latest big ice 'n' snow event slid by northeastern Illinois. It seems a little soon for winter stasis, but maybe it's here -- that flat period of constant cold, snow cover without meltage and gray skies, but not much in the way of blizzard or ice-storm drama. Usually these conditions settle in here sometime in early to mid-February.

Over the weekend I did a spot of parental duty by taking both girls to see Hotel for Dogs, a movie that flitted from one implausibility to another, all the way to an embarrassingly implausible happy ending. There was a moment, about 20 minutes before said embarrassingly implausible happy ending, when the main human characters -- an older sister and a younger brother, both orphaned by their back-story -- were separated by Social Services and condemned to live in group homes, the modern equivalent of orphanages. The dogs of the title, following their temporarily happy lives in the hotel of the title, had all been rounded up by Animal Control and were slated for death. That's where I wanted the movie to end.

It would have tested well with me, but probably not the target audience. Ann, on the verge of turning six, proclaimed the movie "great," so she's definitely in the target audience. Lilly, now 11, said it was "pretty good," so I figure she's edging away from kiddie movies, as she should. After all, she's busy reading Twilight right now.

I'll say Hotel for Dogs was "tolerable." Fortunately, the large number of dogs in the movie, of various breeds, did not talk in voiceovers or read or write or drive cars. They occasionally did funny things, and occasionally veered toward the anthropomorphic, but not too much. At the very beginning of the movie, a dog is depicted as seeking out food by his sense of smell, which was a moderately artful and certainly unusual bit of moviemaking -- and which the director didn't much use again.

I was also able to entertain myself guessing exactly where the movie was supposed to be set. The kids and their dogs lived in a distinctly urban environment that I took for Manhattan for a short while, though occasionally California license plates were visible.

Turns out the movie was set in that all-purpose place, "Center City," a hoary movie convention that could well go back to Mack Sennett. Maybe the real reason it isn't any particular place is to avoid insulting the animal control authorities of that jurisdiction, because Center City's animal control men were goons who seemed to relish the prospect of offing the dogs. Maybe the movie should have been called Hotel Rwanda for Dogs.



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