‘Show Dogs’ packs family-friendly bite
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.