‘Show Dogs’ falls miles short of the win­ner’s cir­cle

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - MOVIES - BY PETER HARTLAUB

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.

TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE

“Show Dogs” is a fam­ily-friendly com­edy.

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