I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
Miss Congeniality, but for dogs. Did we need this? We did not. Director Raja Gosnell has previously perpetrated two Smurfs movies and two Scooby-Doo movies, and I guess he felt that he needed to even out the ranks of his terrible talking-dog “comedies” since he only had the one, Beverly Hills Chihuahua. “Nobody makes talking dog movies anymore,” one of the talking dogs in this talking-dog movie explains. And yet here we are.
These are indeed dark times.
Show Dogs is the cinematic equivalent of stepping in dog shit. You know, for kids! Aggressive, disdainful Max (the voice of Chris “Ludacris” Bridges: The Fate of the Furious, New Year’s Eve) is a Rottweiler NYPD officer who teams up — reluctantly — with aggressive, disdainful FBI agent Frank Mosley (Will Arnett: The Lego Batman Movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows) to hunt down an exotic-animal trafficking ring using a prestigious dog show in Las Vegas as cover. Frank is also reluctant, but not because he’s not trained to work with police dogs or because the FBI has its own canine officers thank-you-very-much or because Max, obvs, doesn’t have jurisdiction in Nevada. But because it’s allegedly funnier when the buddies in the buddy comedy are reluctant, even though they’re basically exactly alike and would be great friends if only they could take turns being the alpha dude. It’s like this movie was constructed via a hastily coded Robert McKee–Mad Libs algorithm.
There will be multiple references to Turner & Hooch.
The plan is for Frank and Max to go undercover as competitors at what is the most elite dog show on the planet, with no preparation, no experience, no knowledge, and no enthusiasm. We all know that such things are no longer required in 2018, when experts are suspect and truth is dead and everything is awful. So of course they fit in perfectly, with just a little bit of help from FBI consultant dog groomer Mattie Smith (Natasha Lyonne: Antibirth, Girl Most Likely) and a slew of fancy show dogs (the voices of Alan Cumming [Battle of the Sexes], Stanley Tucci [Submission], Shaquille O’Neal [Blended], and Gabriel Iglesias [Ferdinand]). Of course there is a token fancy girl dog, Daisy (the voice of Jordin Sparks), for Max to fall in love with. And Daisy even belongs to Mattie, so when Frank inevitably falls for Mattie, the happily-ever-after will be easy to manage. Isn’t it great when the universe just plops docile, adoring, willing females into the lives of useless idiot males?
Here are all the things you will discover in Show Dogs: embarrassingly bad CGI; pratfalls; a dog biting FBI butt; dog farts; testicle humor (multiple instances); a giant movie-long promo for a major hotel on the Vegas Strip that I won’t name because they didn’t pay me to promote them; denigration of cat ladies; horrible clichés and stereotypes. You know — *sob* — for kids!
I almost feel bad for Will Arnett, which in turn makes me uncomfortable: I don’t want to feel bad for him. He made this dog bed for himself, and he can lie in it. But still.
There is one tiny redeeming aspect to Show Dogs, which is that, in the end, Max realizes that, after being absolutely 100-percent awful to everyone around him, from the fancy dogs to Frank, everything actually works out better if you just listen to people who think differently than you do, that sometimes they just might know what they’re talking about. It’s too little too late, and I’m not sure that it will counter all the junk that has come before in the malleable little-kiddie brains this movie is intended for. But Show Dogs could have been worse. Not by much. But still.