ALL BARK AND NO BITE
In Show Dogs, a Rottweiler police dog named Max (voiced by Ludacris), partners with an FBI Agent named Frank (Will Arnett) and goes undercover at a dog show to take down an international smuggling ring.
As there are a diversity of dog breeds present, the film operates as a lesson on respecting those who are different than you, a message hammered home with speeches but only vaguely connected to what is happening on screen. Employing a hero’s journey narrative, the film trucks along from one plot point to the next, but never pauses to create a sensible connection between story and message. Worst of all, Show Dogs lacks charm and humour as it settles in as uninspired and pandering mediocrity aimed at children.
Apparently sponsored by the NYPD and Caesars Palace in Vegas, both of which are constantly referenced, much of Show Dogs is devoted to jokes about Max’s testicles. Yes, this is a children’s movie that is unnaturally consumed with its central character’s junk. Even the marketing team is so convinced that this is the selling point, its advertising strategy is built around a scene where they give the dog a bikini wax. This, unfortunately, sent your reviewer down a Google rabbit hole as to whether professional breeders actually wax their dog’s privates. They do not.
One of the biggest hurdles Max has to overcome is that, as part of the competition, a judge will have to fondle his doggy package. In an uncomfortably long montage, Will Arnett makes various attempts at grabbing the Rottweiler’s dangly bits, and the dog is having none of it. As they enter the judging ring, neither Max nor Frank is sure he will be able to keep composure and this becomes the ultimate test of Max’s stoicism. So, when the judge reaches for the boys, Max keeps calm and goes to his happy place, a bizarre Dirty Dancing inspired psychotropic trip where some giant hearts explode and Will Arnett channels a very poor man’s Patrick Swayze. With a sigh of relief, this fantastic imagining is just long enough for Max to get through the fondling without making a scene, marking an ecstatic moment of transition as cop dog becomes show dog. It is an inspiring sequence that teaches the importance of keeping it together under pressure.
Mix this genital obsession with bad CGI, unrelenting references to Lego Batman, and a general sense of malaise, and you have a pretty complete picture of what Show Dogs has to offer. Even the talented voice cast which includes Ru Paul, Stanley Tucci and Alan Cumming does the movie no favours. The film’s only redeeming factor is Natasha Lyonne’s fabulous bangs, but sadly, that isn’t quite a strong enough selling point for a movie.
While it is an unrelenting cliché to demand someone “think of the children,” if ever there was a justification for using the phrase, it should be in reference to a wide release junk-obsessed film about talking animals aligning with police officers in a thinly veiled marketing coup for a Las Vegas casino. ∂