As I was forced to watch this over Thanksgiving break, I might as well use it as a study in bare-bones three-act structure, with even a bit of deus-ex machina thrown in at the end as well. Expectedly, the Nickelodeon/DreamWorks production of Hotel for Dogs follows a wonderfully bland course of exposition, complication, and resolution. Yet despite the predictable structure of the film, all the two final portions of the film, complication and resolution, have a slightly less predictable component to them. These twists do not necessarily make the plot anything extraordinary, and could even be considered as lazily constructed, but neither of those subjective inquiries are my responsibility.
The exposition does a good job of introducing the main characters, their plight of poor foster parents, and said fallible foster parents fairly early. Fairly coherently, every strand in the web of the upcoming tale are laid out for the viewer, so that these strands can eventually come together for the finale. Before reaching the finale, however, the strands encounter the complication within the plot structure
Here, the main characters and their ragtag group of friends have been secretly sheltering many stray dogs within an abandoned hotel now filled with rube-Goldberg esque pet service contraptions. Interestingly, the main plot of the movie is formed as somewhat isolated from the main characters’ conflicts. When the complication occurs, however, these two plots meet. Several of the rube-goldberg contraptions are made out of ‘borrowed’ items belonging to the fallible foster parents. The foster parents happen to uncover the secret ‘hotel for dogs’ and also their stolen property. Cue the immediate shutting down of the hotel, its exposition to the public, a teen-drama meltdown involving an antique dress and liquid, and the threatened euthanization of scores of dogs. The complication is complete and the main characters devise a plan to rebel against the foster system that has now separated them.This leads the film to the exposition. Here, within the exposition, the final strand laid out in the beginning of the movie intersects with the first two. The main characters stage a daring rescue of the threatened canines, and almost able them to flee the state and capture, but this plan fails. The horde of dogs, which had been running through New York City streets, suddenly divert from their goal and head to the now investigated ‘hotel for dogs’. This leads the public to ‘hotel’ where we see a small bit of dues-ex machina. Don Cheadle, playing the part of the main characters’ social worker, Bernie, gives the roaring public a grand speech just before they begin to call for the destruction of the hotel. The movie humorously plays as if Bernie’s speech is not the final act of exposition, but it is, as his actions during the speech convince the public, police force, news anchors, dog catchers, and fallible foster parents, that the hotel should not only stay available, but also be expanded upon. As if all of this were not enough, Bernie and his wife then go on to adopt the main characters mere moments later. While the obvious dues ex machina leads to a sappily happy ending to the tale, the film still holds very minor twists to the same old structure, adhering to its rigid under-form, but still providing a small amount of discussable material concerning story structure.