‘Show Dogs’ packs fam­ily-friendly bite

Woonsocket Call - - FILM - By PAT PADUA Spe­cial to The Wash­ing­ton Post

Grown-ups might not roll over for “Show Dogs,” but chil­dren al­most surely will. With its fart jokes and smart-alecky ca­nines, this talk­ing-an­i­mal com­edy is aimed at a young au­di­ence any­way. For dog-lov­ing adults, well, it’s just en­gag­ing enough to make them prick up their ears.

We first meet Max, a Rot­tweiler po­lice dog voiced by rap­per Chris “Lu­dacris” Bridges, as he’s stak­ing out a gang of an­i­mal traf­fick­ers in a dan­ger­ous night­time op­er­a­tion on the docks. As the K-9 of­fi­cer re­as­sures a fright­ened baby panda that ev­ery­thing will be all right, he lunges for the shad­owy fig­ure who has emerged out of the dark­ness to pur­chase the cud­dly con­tra­band. But that man (Will Ar­nett) turns out to be an un­der­cover FBI agent named Frank, work­ing with­out the knowl­edge or co­op­er­a­tion of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

Frank and Max are fu­ri­ous at each other, with each one be­liev­ing that he was this close to nail­ing the ring­leader of the crim­i­nal op­er­a­tion. But un­der ques­tion­ing by Frank, one of the mob’s un­der­lings coughs up a tip – mostly in fear of the Rot­tweiler’s teeth – lead­ing Frank and Max to Las Ve­gas, where they be­come re­luc­tant part­ners. Next thing you know, they’re go­ing un­der­cover at the world’s most pres­ti­gious dog show.

But the el­e­ments of a po­lice pro­ce­dural ul­ti­mately play un­der­dog to the glam­orous ken­nel show, a set­ting that serves as a front for an ex­otic-an­i­mal trade. Frank en­lists the aid of a sea­soned dog han­dler (Natasha Ly­onne), while Max is be­friended by a for­mer star show dog (Stan­ley Tucci) who went mad and was sent to the pound. The an­gry, adorable fur­ball pro­vides the movie’s most vivid char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, his eyes widen­ing as Tucci glee­fully rants about slights – both real and per­ceived – from the pure­bred elite.

If only ever so briefly, “Show Dogs” tran­scends ghet­toiza­tion in a deliri­ous fan­tasy se­quence in which Frank and Max per­form a pas de deux to “The Time of My Life,” the theme from “Dirty Danc­ing.” That bit – more than the prospect of talk­ing dogs – may be just enough to make the av­er­age viewer sit and stay. Two and a half stars. PG. Con­tains sug­ges­tive and rude hu­mor, strong lan­guage and some ac­tion, in­clud­ing an­i­mals in jeop­ardy. 90 min­utes.

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