SHOW DOGS

Everybody has different tastes when it comes to film. Some only like action films. Some only like character driven dramas. Some, like me, love all types. There aren’t a whole lot of people who love bad movies, though. However, I have one particular friend who adores bad films, loving to laugh at them, while cringing and groaning along the way. While hanging out the other night, he said he wanted to watch a bad movie. I immediately Googled “The Worst Films of 2018” and that’s why we’re here with this review of something I thought I would never, ever see. 

Show Dogs follows undercover police dog Max (Ludacris), a Rottweiler with a bad attitude and a distaste for humans. The police department is suspicious of a dog show in Las Vegas being a cover for an animal trafficking ring. To investigate, they send FBI Agent Frank (Will Artnett) and Max, much to each other’s chagrin, to Sin City to investigate. When they arrive, Max and Frank go undercover as a dog and his trainer to investigate the dog show. Throughout their investigation, they learn to get over each other’s differences, and work together like man and dog should.

Live action, talking animal movies are pretty much always terrible. Aside from maybe Homeward Bound (which I admittedly haven’t seen in at least 20 years), I don’t think a good one exists. While they are terrible, like any movie, they need to abide by a certain set of rules. When the animals are talking, we need to establish if the humans know they’re speaking and can understand them. In Show Dogs, I was never really sure. All of the animals spoke to and understood each other, but I wasn’t sure if the humans did. Was it a Rugrats-esque situation, where the humans just hear a bunch of yips and barks while the dogs are speaking? It seemed like that most of the time, but sometimes it seemed like Frank knew exactly what Max was saying. I was never exactly sure what the premise was really going for.

Also, the dogs are able to interact with their environment and other characters in ways that don’t make any sense. How exactly would dogs ride a zipline in Las Vegas? Did the ride attendant really get specific dog sized harnesses and let dogs ride, without any owner in sight? If you establish that the animals can speak to the humans, then it’s easier to accept that dogs would be able to do this on their own. When they’re just regular dogs to the humans, it breaks all rules of logic. Yeah, I know I’m trying to look for logic in a talking dog movie, but when the movie consistently breaks the rules of the world, it’s hard not to notice. There are some mildly amusing elements to the world, though. One scene has Max getting himself put in a dog pound in order to speak with the other dogs and get information. There’s also a scene where he exchanges a bag of catnip with a druggie dog (???) for his help. They’re funny elements to have in your “talking dog is a cop premise”, but they feel very out of place in a kid’s film.

There’s of course plenty of terrible animal puns to be heard, some that are on the complete polar opposite of the word “clever”. Some don’t even make sense, like a tiger on a zipline saying, “This really is the Life of Pi!” I get he’s saying that because there’s a tiger in that film, but it just reeks of no effort and doesn’t really make much sense. The awful CGI rears its ugly head in the first minute, with sarcastic talking pigeons looking like they’re plucked from an early 2000’s film. It’s so blatantly computerized, that it’s curious why this wasn’t completely animated. Probably for some sort of budgetary reasons, as having live action animals is a lot cheaper then animating an entire film. This certainly wouldn’t cost only $5.5 million if that were the case. So, of course when the animals talk, it’s CGI making their mouths moves, and it just looks so bizarre and unnatural. There was never one time I believed the effect, and it just felt like the lowest effort was put into it because, “Eh, they’re kids. They won’t notice.” That poor effort is notable everywhere, with awful editing featuring scenes cut short mid-dialogue, or directing with no sense of pacing, or spatial awareness for a scene.

As far as the story goes, it’s your typical kids movie with a simple plot, and simple story beats for it to follow. Max, the rottweiler, is the main character, trying to get over his dislike for humans, and slowly gaining Frank’s trust as the plot thickens. It’s a decent character angle to explore, but Frank is such a blank slate, non-character that there’s no heart to any of it. Max and Frank don’t get along at first and you feel that, but you never feel anything when that bond is finally formed. Why was Will Arnett in this anyway? I’ve done some research and have come up short. Was he blackmailed? Did he do it for his kids? Was he that desperate for money? The world may never know. However, I find it hilariously ironic that he voices the main character in the show BoJack Horseman, an animated TV show about talking animal people that would satirize a film just like this. You can tell that he doesn’t want to be there, nor is he even really trying.

I’m obviously not the target audience for Show Dogs, but I don’t think even the very young target audience would enjoy this. They may enjoy the talking animal antics, but there’s not enough of that for it to really hold their attention. Aside from that, it’s a bland undercover cop premise where they investigate an animal trafficking ring for nefarious activities. In other words: a lot of adults talking about stuff kids know pretty much nothing about. I know I definitely would have been bored watching this as a kid. The best part for me is that one of the main dogs looks exactly like mine, which added a somewhat personal level of enjoyment. My friend and I put this on to watch a bad movie, though, and our screening was filled with a lot of groans, cringes, and screams. In that case, it did its job. In any other case, it completely failed, both as a movie, and a kid’s movie. Even my friend’s dog seemed to hate it.

2.5/10

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