Disclaimer: As of 5/25/18, Show Dogs has been re-edited to  eliminate story elements that may have unintentionally acted in service  towards helping groom children for molestation or pedophilia. This  review reflects the original cut of the film which included these  elements, and as such will stand to critique the film as it was  originally intended for theaters before this controversy came to light.

In this cinematic day and age, the family film genre has evolved  beyond a lot of the trappings that had formerly characterized it  throughout the past few decades. In the 90’s, these movies were  characterized with tropes popularized by movies like E.T. and Home  Alone, with an emphasis on child empowerment and wacky animal antics. In  the early 2000’s, these tropes were (for the most part) overtaken by a  need to appeal heavier to adult audiences and a capitalization upon  rapidly evolving computer technologies, as characterized through films  like the Shrek franchise, among others. Yet, as it stands, the family  film genre has improved for the better into the 2010’s, with a greater  emphasis on quality and depth through emotion rather than how many fart  jokes a person can cram into 90 minutes.

However, despite this age of advancement, certain films squeeze  through the cracks that completely ignore this bar of quality. Movies  like last year’s Nine Lives, Norm of the North, and even the much maligned Spy Kids 4: All the Time In the World  are fascinating in that they feel completely unlike anything coming  from this generation of filmmaking, almost solely for the fact that they  have refused to change or advance beyond past generations. They feel  like cheesy, cornball time capsules from an era long past at best and  money laundering schemes by foreign agents at worst.

Show Dogs is of the latter category.

Old Tricks

Image from IMDb

Show Dogs (released on May 18, 2018 and directed by Raja Gosnell of Scooby-Doo and Smurfs  “fame”) follows the story of Max (Ludacris), a police dog with the NYPD  who is forced to team up with a somewhat dopey FBI agent named Frank  (Will Arnett) after a botched sting operation leaves the two hot on the  tail (pun unintended) of an animal poaching ring. The two then are  forced to go undercover at a prestigious dog show in Las Vegas, with  their only way of stopping this nefarious scheme and saving a panda cub  stuck in the fold being to come out on top and winning first place. With  the “assistance” of a disgraced former show dog voiced by Stanley Tucci  and an assumed diabetic (or should I say, dogabetic?) pooch named  Sprinkles (Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias), they may have a shot.

Getting this out of the way at the outset, I fully realize that I am  not a part of the core demographic this film is aiming for. I am aware  of the fact that a lot of people who are going to see this film simply  won’t care about the quality of it so long as there are a lot of  adorable animals on screen cracking wise and looking cute. However, as a  moviegoer seeing things from the perspective of your average audience  member (and a person with a sense of how movies like this can work), Show Dogs  pulls off the incredible feat of not really hiding the fact that it has  nothing really there for the parents and older family members being  dragged to this flick mentally kicking and screaming all the way.

From the opening set piece of the film, let alone the first five minutes of Show Dogs,  this movie refuses to allow any form of silence or atmosphere to  actually develop. It’s a trait that many crummy kid movies tend to  share, wherein the filmmakers immediately assume that, if nobody is  doing anything, if the plot isn’t moving at the pace of a spider monkey  huffing Pixie Sticks through a can of Red Bull, then they’re failing at  their jobs. The opening in question is an elaborate chase sequence,  wherein Max and Frank are running after a poacher and constantly  one-upping each other. In action, the piece is nothing but all three  parties getting as many one-liners and dog jokes in as they can, all  being topped off with an obligatory “Who Let the Dogs Out?” joke. Keep  in mind, this is started off by Max arguing with a trio of CGI pigeons  who barely serve a purpose to the overall plot and are acted in a way  that makes them three of the most obnoxious characters I have ever seen  in a movie of this caliber.

Image from IMDb

The rest of the writing in the film is of similar quality. The world  building lacks any real sense of cohesion, seeing as (in the world of  the film) dogs are sentient and capable of cross-species interaction,  and humans are aware of this to the point of letting them operate  independently on a police force… yet they cannot actually talk to dogs  and otherwise treat them like actual, normal dogs?  Most of the  characters lack any depth, and some are literal stereotypes, with the  henchman for our big bad as an overweight Ricky Gervais stand-in, loudly  guzzling down sardine and mustard sandwiches while shouting  stereotypical British sayings without any form of subversion or tact. If  that isn’t lazy, I don’t know what is.  

Nothing In the Rulebook…

However, regardless of the bland and stereotypical kid’s movie humor  that one tends to associate with movies of this caliber, I feel that  it’s important to note how many times Show Dogs goes out of  its’ way to break the “Plan Nine” rule. For the uninformed, the Plan  Nine rule is an unofficial rule of film making coined in an episode of  the 90’s cult hit television series Mystery Science Theater 3000. Named after filmmaker Ed Wood’s infamous Plan Nine from Outer Space,  the rule is simple: Don’t mention better movies in the film you’re  making, or the audience will immediately disengage and find themselves  wishing they were watching the film that was just referenced instead of  your own. While this rule is (as mentioned prior) unofficial and  therefore not necessary to making a good movie, Show Dogs is  far more interested in namedropping and referencing other, more  enjoyable films as jokes in lieu of utilizing these references to  actually comment on the thing being referenced or even actually telling  jokes to begin with.

Image from IMDb

One of the most egregious examples of this lazy excuse for humor  comes in the form of a sequence early on in the film, in which Arnett’s  character attempts to interrogate a poacher concerning the whereabouts  of the missing, horribly unconvincing CGI panda cub. Getting nowhere,  Arnett ponders aloud about switching from good cop to bad cop in order  to get the information he needs…only for the poacher to quip about him  spinning his head around, just shy of namedropping the LEGO character.  As an audience member who was already skeptical of the film from the  outset and made even moreso in the aftermath of the trite opening, the  first thought that came to mind was how I would have much rather  preferred staying home and watching 2014’s The LEGO Movie as opposed to the drek I had found myself slogging through.

Making matters worse is that the film immediately follows this line up with Arnett abruptly slipping into his LEGO Batman  voice accompanied by a dark, moody orchestra sting. Admittedly, this  was one of the few moments where the film came close to actually pulling  off a decent joke, but it doesn’t change the fact that that “joke”  solely relies on the viewer having seen both The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie.  Of course, given the intended audience for this film, that joke would  fly. However, as an adult viewer outside of that kind of mindset, it  only serves as a reminder that you and your family/children could rather  be watching family films with actual effort and thought put into them,  as opposed to this farce of a film that devotes an entire training  montage to a dog learning how to not bite somebody when have their  nether regions inspected.

…Nowhere near as funny as it sounds, unfortunately.

It doesn’t stop there. Lady and the Tramp gets namedropped  by the pigeons as Max and his semi-titular show dog love interest Daisy  (an Australian Shepard voiced by Jordin Sparks) wolf down a hot dog and  “recreate” the iconic spaghetti shot on a rooftop. That’s the joke. Max,  at one point, says the line “This is ludicrous!”. He is voiced by a man  named Ludacris. That’s the entire joke. At the end of the movie, a  smuggled tiger (with a slight Indian accent, which is a given  considering the film’s already spotty caricatures) rides a zipline down  the Vegas strip, yelling out a line that goes something along the lines  of “Now, this is the REAL Life of Pi!

…Get it?

It’s a tiger. A tiger was in Life of Pi. Therefore it’s funny.  

Image from IMDb

Speaking of Life of Pi, the CG work throughout the entirety  of the film is practically a joke unto itself. Aside from a few  characters that are entirely computer-generated (the pigeons, panda, and  aforementioned tiger), CG is used to make the dog characters “speak.”  This effect, much like the rest of the film, is slapdash, at times  clashing with the flesh and fur animals and making it extremely obvious  that all of this is a sham. Not helping any further is when the dogs  occasionally turn completely animated, special note to a sequence early  on in the film in which Stanley Tucci’s character starts to go down a  runway, only to turn into a sub-Pixarian monstrosity and start walking  on its’ hind legs while vogueing, culminating this most shameful display  with a dab. It is an image beyond words and comprehension in regard to  how poorly thought out it is and a testament to how this movie is far  less interested in actually telling a story for the benefit of its young  demographic. The film revels in stereotypical, trite humor and meme  culture one would think died with the Alvin and the Chipmunks film franchise.

The Flea-Bitten End

What else is there left to say about Show Dogs? The story is  a trite excuse for family, no less children’s, entertainment with  themes and ideas that have been executed far more competently in at  least fifteen films I can think of. The filmmaking on display is a  novelty act of how little you can care about making a film for actual  theaters (and that’s even if this film was made with the big screen in  mind). The performances from the human actors are either aimless without  any true direction or so one-note that they’re ultimately pointless.  The voice acting is no different, with some of the cast sleepwalking  through the picture and some actors taking things to the point of sheer  obnoxiousness. The score feels cheap; the sets feel cheap. Everything  here feels cheap. If you want to spend a day out at the movies with your  family and cannot wait for Incredibles 2, you’re much better off taking your kids to Deadpool 2 than the steaming pile of dog turd that is Show Dogs.

Image: Facebook, IMDB

For more entertainment related content, visit us at Bytebsu!