UK Release Date: 25th May 2018
Runtime: 92 minutes
Director: Raja Gosnell
Writer: Max Botkin, Marc Hyman
Starring: Ludacris, Will Arnett, Natasha Lyonne, Jordin Sparks, Stanley Tucci, Gabriel Iglesias, Alan Cumming, Shaquille O’Neal, RuPaul
Synopsis: A police dog reluctantly joins forces with an FBI agent to investigate the theft of rare animals, seemingly connected to a top dog show taking place in Las Vegas.
The plot of the widely derided, but actually quite brilliant, animated movie The Boss Baby hinges upon a cabal of suit-wearing babies and their attempts to stop a plot that would see dogs usurp babies for human affection. That movie would likely have been considerably shorter if the babies had thought to hire Raja Gosnell. The director behind the two live-action Scooby-Doo films and Beverly Hills Chihuahua has done more to besmirch the reputation of man’s best friend than anyone else alive. On the strength of Show Dogs, his one man anti-canine crusade may have finally reached its zenith.
This is a movie that hinges upon a police dog named Max (Ludacris). He’s not a police dog in the traditional sense, accompanying a human officer, but he seems to be a wholly independent cop with his own personal caseload – despite the fact humans can’t understand his speech. The chain of command in this version of the NYPD must be absolutely fascinating. Max gets involved in a case involving the theft of a panda cub, which leads him to butt heads with human FBI agent Frank (Will Arnett). Conveniently, intelligence suggests the cub is going to be sold on under the cover of a high-end dog show – which gives the diametrically opposed law enforcers a reason to join forces.
The plot is already barmy at this point, before Max mounts a prison break in order to gain the advice of former dog show champion Philippe (Stanley Tucci). He then meets adorable contender Daisy (Jordin Sparks) and an enormous ball of fluff that spouts quasi-Buddhist philosophy, voiced by Shaquille O’Neal. By the time Drag Race presenter RuPaul turns up as a furry fashionista to spout her reality show catchphrases, it’s as if the film is openly laughing at anyone misguided enough to have bought a ticket.
Show Dogs is a movie that could have been put together over the course of a single boozy Christmas party and the chaotic result is catastrophically unfunny. The gags aren’t so much bad as they are outwardly nonsensical, whether it’s a pigeon declaring that a dog “can flip this bird any day” or a ziplining tiger yelling “this really is the life of Pi”. At one stage, the French toy spaniel voiced by Tucci seems to suggest that the best way to win a dog show is to vogue and dab, despite the fact it’s not something another competitor is ever shown doing. It’s a world in which all of the animals are equally eloquent and intelligent, but a police Rottweiler is still able to outsmart the seasoned competitors in an elite pageant.
Under the cloak of some uncanny valley CGI, it’s impossible to tell whether the voice actors are enjoying themselves or not. For the human performers, though, their misery and disgust is present in every inch of the thousand yard stares they wear on their faces. Arnett uses at least three different tones of gravelly as his voice fluctuates at random throughout the movie and all of his co-stars are visibly counting the zeroes in their pay packets every time they deliver a line.
It’s tough to work out what Show Dogs was aiming to do, as every element of it is so tremendously misjudged. The comedy never lands and the crime narrative falls apart under the most cursory of scrutiny. Sometimes a comedy just doesn’t work, and that’s fine, but this has all of the hallmarks of a movie that was destined for disaster from the moment it was given the green light. Nobody involved can ever have thought this was a good idea. Rubbing chilli powder into my eyes seemed, at one point, to be an entirely preferable way to spend an afternoon. At least I wouldn’t have been able to see the dabbing dog.
Pop or Poop?
Raja Gosnell may have ruined dogs forever with this film. Show Dogs is so exhausting and irritating that just about anything is preferable to spending even another moment watching its nonsensical plot and tedious attempts at humour. It made me really want to buy a cat – and I don’t like cats.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.