May 6, 2009 -- I waited for this one to come around to the less expensive theater in town before seeing it. This is a Disney-like movie, but is made by the folks at Dreamworks. It features the usual Disney stables: Child actors and trained animals. As such, it is not bad. It is funny and touching at times, even though the premise is pretty close to impossible.
Emma Roberts of “Nancy Drew” stars as Andi, and Jake T. Austin of the “Wizards of Waverly Place” TV show plays her genius inventor brother, Bruce. Andi and Bruce are orphans living with comically inept foster parents Carl and Lois Scudder (played broadly and insipidly by Kevin Dillon of “Poseidon” and Lisa Kudrow of “Friends”). Andi and Bruce are kids that are constantly getting in trouble and are on their last set of foster parents. Their social services case worker, Bernie (Don Cheadle of “Traitor”) warns them that if they don't make it with the Scudders, he will have to split them up and send them to separate families. Naturally, Andi and Bruce get into more trouble when they decided to provide a home for all the stray dogs in town, putting them up in an abandoned hotel. Andi and Bruce get help from a couple of pet store employees, Dave and Heather (Johnny Simmons of “The Spirit” and Kyla Pratt of the “One on One” TV show) and a neighborhood boy, Mark (Troy Gentile of “Drillbit Taylor”).
Bruce rigs up a number of Rube Goldberg contraptions to help take care of the dogs, including a feeding system using old tin cans and a toy train. The dogs are trained to urinate in a kind of giant urinal adorned with a fire hydrant. Dog excrement is captured and shrink wrapped by a devices hidden under toilets the dogs have been trained to use. The dogs can take faux car rides, watching projected scenery and feeling the wind in their faces from a fan. There is a device for throwing sticks and a machine that dispenses old shoes to chew on. There seems to be no end to Bruce's inventiveness.
The movie draws a strong parallel between Andi and Bruce's situation as unwanted orphans and the unwanted dogs. It doesn't really get into the basic truths behind animal overpopulation, such as euthanasia at dog pounds, irresponsible dog breeding and the widespread failure of owners to spay and neuter pets. In fact, some pets at the hotel for dogs do some breeding of their own during the movie. In this movie all the dogs and kids are loveable. Every dog has a name and all are considered valuable members of a larger family composed of people and dogs. Euthanasia is not a possibility the movie is willing to tackle. This is not the sort of movie you expect to actually confront reality, and it does not. This film rates a C+.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.