Cast: Will Arnett, Ludacris, Natasha Lyonne, Jordin Sparks
Director: Raja Gosnell
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: SHOW DOGS is a family comedy about the unlikely pairing of a human detective (Arnett) and his canine partner (voice of Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), who has to go undercover at the world’s most exclusive dog show to solve his biggest case yet.
I have multiple theories as to how Will Arnett ended up working on Show Dogs, and most of them involve him owing money to the mob, losing bets to friends in the film industry, or him thinking he was on the set of Bojack Horseman and that the animation for this season was just really good. Regardless of how or why he signed on to be in this movie, this movie really has no reason to exist. It has no original thought or idea, no clear moral message, and jokes that take either no effort or talent to write. Filled with moments that pander to children and lowbrow humor that even the youngest of children will probably not find funny, Show Dogs has one purpose and one purpose only, make as much money as possible off of a demographic that is more than willing to spend it.
The film follows Max (voiced by Ludacris), a dog that works for the NYPD who is investigating potential high-level animal smuggling in New York. When Max and Frank (Arnett) clash at a stakeout and let the smugglers get away, the two must team up to follow a potential lead in Las Vegas at a dog show. In an attempt to blend into their environment, Frank enters Max into the dog show even though Max has no experience. Can Max and Frank overcome their differences to work together, can Max win the dog show without any experience and will the two of them recover all the stolen animals? Looking at director Raja Gosnell’s career as a director, it is no surprise that he worked closely on a film like this. When your resume includes movies like Beverly Hills Chihuahua and the live-action Scooby Doo movies, your newest project is probably going to end up in the same pit of mediocrity as those movies. Instead of taking a relatively simple premise and surprising us with a unique spin, we get exactly what most people could predict we would get. The amount of stupid butt jokes and dabbing that takes place is legitimately absurd. It is almost as if whenever the writers ran out of material, they decided, “just put a fart joke in there, the kids will love it.” It is frustrating to see these jokes just repeat over and over for 90 minutes. From a story perspective, one of the things that really annoyed me was I was not 100% sure if the humans could understand the dogs talking or not. At first, the dogs dialogue with the humans match up perfectly when they speak in the same scene. Then, there are scenes that show that the human can only hear the dogs bark. But then in later scenes, the dialogue matches up again like the humans can understand the dogs. For future endeavors, please just stick to one or the other, but this back and forth stuff is tiring on the audience. Outside of that, I am not quite sure what the message of this movie is. I would say it is, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but it does a very poor job of explaining that. Many of the main characters are either mean-spirited or judgemental, so it is tough to identify with them and their changes because of how flawed they were at the start. Combine this with the child grooming controversy from one of the scenes in the dog competition and we have a film is not only unfunny but that also does not have a moral ground to stand on.
Overall, we all knew what this was going to be before seeing it. I go into films with a pretty open mind, and while I was not expecting 2018’s Casablanca, the least it can do is entertain me. The only reason why I am not rating it lower than probably anticipated is that it is not necessarily offensively bad. Do not get me wrong, Show Dogs is bad, but it is not necessarily the worst comedy or film that I have seen in 2018. Once again if a film’s best quality is that it is not the worst thing possible, it probably has more than enough problems to speak on.
Overall Score: 2.5/10