Hotel for Dogs clearly wants to rank alongside films such as Anna to the Infinite Power, The Goonies, E.T., and Radio Flyer, films that balanced lighthearted playfulness with a darker, grittier reality. Like the recent Spiderwick Chronicles, Hotel for Dogs plays all the same Spielberg/Donner riffs (a cast of doe-eyed youngsters wise beyond their years dressed in corduroy and plaid, moments of adult menace cut with "oh, thank goodness" relief) and even apes the look of these early '80s flicks. Yet for all its nostalgic bravado, the film never feels more than surface, more than flash.
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Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) is the son of the world's greatest heroes, super-strong Captain Stronghold (Kurt Russell) and high-flying Josie Jetstream (Kelly Preston). However, despite his impressive lineage, Will's lack of astonishing abilities poses complications on his first day at Sky High, a Hogwarts-esque floating academy for exceptionally gifted teens. Because of his embarrassing ordinariness, Will is shuttled into the "Sidekick" academic track (euphemistically referred to as "Hero Support") with his hippie best friend Layla (Danielle Panabaker) and other lamely powered misfits. Sidekicks are unpopular geeks and Heroes are the cool kids at this fantastic high school, which also features a cheerleading squad made up of clones, a mixed-lineage (hero and villain) rebel as Will's brooding arch-nemesis, and bullies acting as evil henchmen for a mysterious fiend who's plotting revenge against the Stronghold clan. This passing interest in metaphorical subtext proves tantalizing during Will's admission to his dad that he's a sidekick (a moment that recalls X-Men 2's "coming out" scene), as well as with the repeated adult refrain that Will is just a "late bloomer" (thus linking his nascent strengths with puberty). Yet content to only skim the surface of its symbolic potential, the film doggedly opts for obviousness when subtlety is called for, ultimately turning its story into simply the latest misfit-makes-good-and-proves-that-dorks-are-people-too adolescent fairy tale.
Continue reading: Sky High Review
In a busy year that has seen John Krasinski star in movies and TV shows, he somehow managed to find the time to direct, produce and star in the new...