- Release Date: 24 May 2018
- Rating: PG
- Running Time: 93mins
- Genre: Family, Comedy
- Directed By: Raja Gosnell
- Starring: Stanley Tucci, Natasha Lyonne, Alan Cumming, Ludacris, Will Arnett
Thanks to Shaw Cinema for the free preview.
The best way to sum up the children’s movie Show Dogs is to recount what a couple said to each other once leaving the theatre. “This was a free movie, right?” Thankfully it was because spending money on this movie might be considered a criminal offence. It is the particular kind of bad that goes beyond merely being a lazy cash-grab. This movie is well and truly mindboggling.
Piddling on the Carpet
The premise is crazy enough. Street-smart Rottweiler Max, voiced by Christopher Bridges (Ludacris as he’s more commonly known) is on a stakeout. Alone. What is he staking out? A kidnapped baby panda of course. While he is on the stakeout, three pigeons come and annoy him, because children’s movie has some kind of quota of infuriating side-characters to fill. The stakeout goes wrong, we meet his future partner Agent Nicholas (Will Arnett), and through interrogation, they discover that the panda will be at the Canini invitational, the most prestigious dog show in the world. Max enters as a contest, and they fly off to New Vegas, the usual mismatched crime-fighting duo. Think Turner and Hooch if they were a divorced couple. There they will meet new allies and enemies; life lessons are learned, the bad guys are caught. All’s well that ends well, nothing we haven’t seen before.
On its own, nothing stands out from that description. It is the same kind of script we have seen so many times before. Simple stories are fine, so long as the characters are interesting. However, despite Will Arnett trying much harder than he should, everyone drops the ball in that department. Ludacris is putting in less effort than he does in the Fast and Furious franchise, the villain (Omar Chaparro) is flat. Even Stanley Tucci, voicing a prima-donna Papillion dog called Philippe (He’s Belgian) does nothing more than relying on tired stereotypes. Not a single performance was noteworthy in Show Dogs, and if that were the end of it, it would be nothing more than another bad movie.
Show Dogs is not just a bad movie. It is a crazy ride through the darkest recesses of human insanity as well as being just terrible. Every scene raises more questions than the one before. For example, Max starts the movie acting alone, a true lone ranger. However, it is established an HOUR into the film that humans don’t understand animals. So this is a world where we have Dogs displaying visible sentient behaviour, yet we still keep them as pets. Unless we live in a world akin to Sausage Party, where we can only see their unusual behaviour when on hard drugs. If so, that is a very bold choice of direction for a kids movie, but then it would require Arnett’s character to be permanently high, as he seems to switch between treating Max like an average dog and like a human on four legs.
There is a scene in the movie where a bouncer asks Max (a Rottweiler, lest we forget) if he knows this human before letting him into a party. Max nods, and Nicholas is let in. Just a scene later, Max gets out of trouble when he’s caught with his ear pressed to a door by pulling a stupid face and dragging his arse on the floor. Aside from being the only funny scene in the movie, it made me question just what kind of hellscape the character in this movie inhabit where this is entirely normal. Especially since not moments later, he starts acting like an actual cop again. Of course, the easy answer is this movie is so lazy it can’t keep anything consistent. That is understandable if infuriating because again we have seen this before. However, this doesn’t explain the weirdest scene in the movie.
Entering your happy place
Dog shows are awful things. They promote awful practices such as inbreeding, and that’s just the beginning. One aspect of the show is the inspection of the dog. This is where a judge picks at and prods the dog, determining it’s general health and “purity” (again, inbreeding). Part of this inspection involves looking at and touching the private parts of the dog. This movie includes that part of the show.
Leading up to the final part of the show, Nicholas keeps trying to touch Max’s crown jewels to prepare. Every time, Max turns and bites him. Quite understandably, he doesn’t like anyone touching his stuff without consent. How do they get around it? Phillipe tells Max to go to his “happy place,” pretending it’s not happening. Once we get to the scene, where Max jumps onto the platform to the tune of “Sexy and I know it,” the music fades the closer the judge gets to the sensitive area. Nicholas leans backwards and gives a concerned look at Max’s rear end. Max enters his happy place, which involves him dancing with Nicholas to “Dirty Dancing”, which a kaleidoscope of T-bone steaks, fire hydrants and bones. The scene ends, hands are not bitten, and Max ends up not winning the content.
Words cannot describe just how awful this scene was. Aside from it being terrible CGI, an abrupt right-turn in the relationship between Max and Nicholas, and probably the most extreme tonal shift I’ve seen in years, what is it doing in a kids movie? Who read the script, greenlit it, filmed it, edited and looked at the final product saying, “Yes, there is nothing problematic about this scene at all.” I pity the parents at the screening who needed to discuss consent with their children after this.
I could write an entire master’s thesis on every insane thing that happens in this movie and still have to miss parts out. The rapey dream sequence ( now cut from the movie) was just the worst offender. There is also the final confrontation in a hanger, where they have to avoid a plane running in circles (think that scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark), along with a disappearing tiger (not an exaggeration). Hell, even the date scene with the contractually obligated love interest between Max and an Australian Collie is a walk down lunacy lane.
To make matters worse, the film tries to be clever at least a couple of times. There is a red carpet scene with two chihuahuas, which includes a former dog star saying, “There aren’t so many talking god movies anymore, so I’ve been focusing on my lifestyle brand.” Yes, very clever movie. I’m sure the children you’re aiming at will get that deep cut.
It is true, the genre of “things talking that shouldn’t” has seen a decline recently. Mostly because most of those were terrible. I loved Cats and Dogs when I was a kid, and whilst I will admit it’s a terrible movie, it was better than this garbage. At least that movie had a consistent rule about the dogs talking. Show Dogs cannot remember it’s own rules scene to scene. Yes, it is a kids film, but so is every Pixar Movie. If it was just for kids, why the sexual-abuse scene, why all the adult-leaning jokes? Tucci’s character even says turd at one point.
Putting it all to sleep
To bring this insanity to a close, Show Dogs is the worst movie I’ve seen this year. It might even be the worst I’ve seen this decade. It is so bad I am almost tempted to suggest you go out and catch it. However, with just one laugh and nothing else to show for it, Show Dogs fails even as a “so bad it’s good” kind of film. I left that screening angry. Not at Shaw who very kindly gave us the screening, but everyone involved in that production. Will Arnett should know better. Ludacris shouldn’t have to do anything other than Fast and Furious. Tucci is dragging his own name through the mud.
Parents, if you need a film to show to your kids, stay at home. Netflix still has plenty of good stuff on it. Or go see Infinity War again. At least watching your children’s favourite superheroes turn into dust is an easier thing to explain than why a dog had to think happy thoughts while an old man was groping its junk. Seriously, this movie and everyone who worked on it can rot in hell.