‘Show Dogs’ falls miles short of the winner’s circle
Somewhere between the first time Will Arnett gets bitten in the rear, and when Shaquille O’Neal shows up voicing a sheepdog that sounds stoned, a realization occurs: “Show Dogs” is really bad, even for a talking dog movie.
The genre isn’t exactly filled with Library of Congress-bound classics. But this live-action PG-rated comedy is making such a minimal effort, that at times it’s striking. Visual-effects sequences seem unfinished. Jokes are written with pop culture references that are mostly forgotten. The normally reliable Will Arnett slips in and out of a New York accent, as if no one is telling him when the camera is rolling.
“Show Dogs” is just 90 minutes long, but you’ll swear entire days have passed. It’s similar to the experience of walking out of that “Chronicles of Narnia” wardrobe.
The plot is a note-fornote reboot of the 2000 film “Miss Congeniality,” except with pet shows instead of a beauty pageant. Arnett is a cop who teams with an uncouth police Rottwieler (voiced by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), who must infiltrate an animal theft ring at a dog pageant. The dogs all talk but the humans can’t hear them, but that fact isn’t clear until several sequences into the movie.
The production seems frozen in time from the 1980s, with a Reagan-era vibe of good times during the chase scenes, as if a Pointer Sisters song is always about to break out. (Further evidence that the screenplay was pulled out of a time capsule: There’s a “Turner & Hooch” reference in the script. The Tom Hanks cop/dog buddy comedy came out 29 years ago.)
But there’s almost no sense of pacing. The filmmaking always seems to be in service of whatever piece of slapstick or one-liner is on the screen at the moment. And these jokes, which are highlighted as if with a spotlight, are terrible. The experience is similar to having a boorish seatmate on a plane, who responds to your lack of interest by just talking louder.
The best thing that can be said about the comedy: By some miracle, a flatulent dog joke doesn’t arrive until the 30-minute mark.
“Show Dogs” seems like an easy target for critics who take filmed entertainment too seriously. It’s a movie mostly aimed for indiscriminating young audiences. It doesn’t pretend to be more than a fun diversion. It co-stars Natasha Lyonne, a solid actress who deserves the easy paycheck.
But movies cost money, and just the time with your family should be valuable. So make a stand to Hollywood and vote with your wallet: We all deserve a better live-action talking-dog movie than this.
“Show Dogs” is a family-friendly comedy.