Director: Raja Gosnell
Cast: Will Arnett, Ludacris, Stanley Tucci, Natasha Lyonne, Alan Cumming, Jordin Sparks, Shaquille O'Neal, Gabriel Iglesias
RunTime: 1 hr 31 mins
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 31 May 2018
Synopsis: Will Arnett, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Natasha Lyonne, Jordin Sparks, Gabriel Iglesias, Shaquille O'Neal, Alan Cumming, and Stanley Tucci, 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.
It wasn’t too long ago when talking-dog family movies were the rage, and Raja Gosnell must have either felt that children under the age of 7 were being deprived of such harmless diversion and/or that their parents were somehow nostalgic for that kind of wholesome family fun. How else would you explain why the director of ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua’ and the two live-action ‘Scooby Doo’ movies would return to such action comedy fare content to serve up exactly the same formula of slapstick humour, puerile gags and lame pop-culture references?
Oh yes, if that sounds like your idea of fun, then ‘Show Dogs’ is just the movie for you. From Will Arnett getting bitten on the butt, to jokes about toilet water and drinking out of them, to tongue-in-cheek references of ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ (Arnett was the voice of Batman in that one), it is clear that Gosnell and his pair of writers Max Botkin and Marc Hyman can hardly be bothered about being derivative; rather, their only preoccupation seems to be to engender enough CGI mayhem involving talking dogs of various breeds, stripes and temperaments, and to fill the moments in between with as much wisecracks as is necessary not to let the pace slack.
Unfortunately, the entire endeavour simply comes off exhausting, and it is especially telling that the movie’s one-and-a-half-hour duration feels at least twice that length. Part of the problem lies with the throwaway plot, which has something to do with Arnett’s FBI agent Frank Mosley teaming up with a rugged, alpha-male NYPD Rottweiler Max (voiced by Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) to go undercover at a Las Vegas dog show in order to apprehend a band of illegal animal traders. Never mind that the story seems to be a note-for-note reboot of Sandra Bullock’s ‘Miss Congeniality’; what’s more fundamental is how poorly developed the storytelling is, with nary a care for how Frank and/or Max go about their investigation or the mechanics of the animal smuggling ring. There is hardly any tension or excitement or climax to speak of, such that the movie feels flat from start to finish.
To the credit of the talented voice cast, they try their darnest to make the most out of their characters – among the standouts are Stanley Tucci as the prissy French Papillion former champ Phillippe, Gabriel Igelesis as the feisty but over-excitable pug Sprinkles and Shaquille O’Neal as the dreadlocked Buddhist-worshipping Komondor appropriately named Karma – but their hyper-aggressive jokiness can only go so far to cover up how thinly drawn their characters really are, with perhaps only Phillippe given anything resembling a character arc over the course of the movie. Oh, there’s also a bit of romance going on between Max and singer Jordin Sparks’ Australian Shepherd Daisy, but again that’s barely developed enough to register.
In addition to the non-existent plot and barely-there characters, ‘Show Dogs’ also suffers from Gosnell’s own slapdash choreography. There seems little thought given to proper scene construction, not to mention the cheesy visual effects that are responsible for the awkwardly inserted CGI animals as well as the clumsily animated mouths and faces of the real ones. Sure, Gosnell probably didn’t have as big of a budget as he did working on his previous studio-backed movies, but the careless manner in which he has assembled the scenes is inexcusably sloppy, not least of how he cannot even be bothered to maintain any semblance of consistency as to whether the humans and dogs in his film can actually speak and understand each other.
Frankly, ‘Show Dogs’ is so terrible you wonder why it’s getting a theatrical release in the first place. That’s not because its premise feels left over from the 1980s, or even that the talking-dog family comedy genre is well past its heydays; rather, it’s how shoddily, messily and thoughtlessly the movie has been put together, as if the filmmakers just couldn’t be bothered with basic coherence. We were never expecting this to be first-in-show, but neither for that matter did we expect this to be worst-of-breed; and with such runt of the litter, there is hardly any wonder why there is nary any audience goodwill left for movies of this like.
(This latest talking-dog family comedy from genre specialist Raja Gosnell reminds you just why such movies fell out of favour in the first place)
Review by Gabriel Chong