Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Movie Review: Show Dogs

Show Dogs * ½ / *****
Directed by: Raja Gosnell.
Written by: Max Botkin and Marc Hyman.
Starring: Will Arnett (Frank), Ludacris (Max - voice), Stanley Tucci (Philippe -voice), Natasha Lyonne (Mattie), Jordin Sparks (Daisy – voice), Alan Cumming (Dante – voice), RuPaul (Persephone), Shaquille O'Neal (Karma - voice), Gabriel Iglesias (Sprinkles - voice), Omar Chaparro (Señor Gabriel), Andy Beckwith (Berne).
Show Dogs is probably precisely the movie you think it will be when you hear it’s about a talking NYPD dog who goes undercover at a dog show to uncover smugglers, and who has to team up with a FBI agent played by Will Arnett who at first cannot stand him. The bar for ambition on these films is low, and this one basically plays like the writers half saw Miss Congeniality on cable and said what if that but with a dog, and churned out a screenplay that afternoon. You know the studio didn’t think this would make a lot of money – they certainly didn’t spend much on advertising the thing – but they really don’t need to. This is the type of movie that will live for years on Netflix and cable reruns on channels devoted to kids, who will watch the movie and laugh at the talking dogs and fart jokes. There is a reason why there was more than one Beverly Hills Chihuahua movie (there were 3!) and why they have churned out three Pup Star movies in the last three years. The answer is simple – kids love talking dog movies.
If you’re not a parent, you probably don’t know about Pup Star – and you are probably in no way ever going to watch Show Dogs – and to be fair to you, there is no reason for you to do either of those things. Show Dogs is a lame comedy that is oddly fixated on the police dogs private parts. Needless to say, my 6 and 4 year olds quite enjoyed it. And good for them, I suppose. I continue to take them to these movies, even knowing how bad they will be, in the hope that they will get into the habit of going to the movies, and love it – so this institution I love survives. And also because it gives us something to do on a Monday of a long weekend when everything else is closed and we’ve already been to the park, and they keep complaining about how bored they are.
Will Arnett plays the FBI agent who has to team up with Max, a NYPD Rottweiler with the voice of Ludacris, which of course Arnett cannot understand, but all the other dogs do. Give Arnett credit for not entirely sleepwalking through the movie, and agreeing to show his face on camera – which the host of celebrity voices for the dogs - including Stanley Tucci as an aging, effeminate former champion, Jordin Sparks as Max’s love interest, Alan Cumming as a somehow even more effeminate than Tucci current champion, RuPaul as an dog with a weird costume or Gabriel Iglesias as a hyper active dog named Sprinkles do not do. You know you’re in trouble when the best vocal work in the film may well be Shaquille O’Neal as a philosophy spouting dog. Arnett even agreeably appears in a version of the Dirty Dancing sequence with Max that my kids found hilarious, despite never having seen Dirty Dancing. Natasha Lyonne also shows up as Arnett’s love interest, and that’s strange after years of seeing her in Orange is the New Black, now all put together and prim and proper – it’s just strange.
Listen, everyone involved with Show Dogs knew what they were getting into when they made it – and if you watch the film, you know as well. There’s a reason it’s coming out now – because we’re more than a month since the last animated kids movie, and about a month before the next one, Incredibles 2, so they slipped it in here to try and make a few bucks, before the film lives on Netflix and cable forever. The film is what it is – and while that is very (very) bad, I do have a tough time getting angry about it. I mean, what really did I expect when I went to see it?

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