Who’s In It: Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Don Cheadle, Johnny Simmons, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon
The Basics: A brother and sister with rotten foster parents, people from whom they have to keep their pet dog a secret, find shelter for the mutt at an abandoned hotel. Turns out there are other strays squatting there too, so the kids recruit neighborhood friends to turn the place into a home for all the mongrels they can find, complete with great dog-centric inventions. Yes, everything here is crazy-adorable. And best of all, unlike a certain other cute canine movie in theaters near you, you’re not subjected to bummer-inducing pet death scenes or heart-shattering doggie funerals.
What’s the Deal: Kids love having secret plans that adults aren’t in on. So this movie will dovetail nicely into that childhood desire. It’s got an elaborate, only-in-your-dreams secret clubhouse, a virtuous do-gooder plan operating under the noses of mean, stupid grownups who just don’t understand and, even better, are openly hostile towards kids and dogs. You couldn’t ask for a better fantasyland where the kid characters get to assert their dominance over their own destinies. Also? It saves its cutest, most heartwarming doggie love-bombing for the end and you get to see pugs and French Bulldogs in little outfits. Everyone likes that.
Best In Show: The hotel set is almost as charming as the dogs themselves. Whoever designed and built the lo-fi contraptions that the dogs use to enjoy themselves—the motion simulator ride where they get to hang their heads out a car window while a fan blows in their face, a combination ferris wheel/conveyor belt food distribution system, a vending machine for shoes to chew on—should get some kind of recognition. And by that I mean something more than a mention in a review by some guy who’s barely a film critic.
Points Off For: Boring kids. Not that it matters much. It’s a dog-and-awesome-sets show really. You didn’t come to see Emma Roberts be Erin Brockovich, Jr. Not there’s anything inherently wrong with her. Did you see Nancy Drew? You should.
Just So You Beverly Hills Chihuahua Fans Aren’t Expecting Something This Movie Refuses to Deliver: No, they don’t talk. Dogs are left to be dogs in this one.