“Show Dogs” stars Will Arnett, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Natasha Lyonne, Jordin Sparks, Gabriel Iglesias, Shaquille O’Neal, Omar Chaparro, and Stanley Tucci. Released on May 18, 2018, the film has a police dog and his human partner going undercover in a dog show.
The film is directed by Raja Gosnell, who also directed films such as “Big Momma’s House”, “Scooby-Doo”, “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”, and “The Smurfs”. When it comes to films that involve talking animals, no director handles them as well as Raja Gosnell. Sure, these movies can be a nuisance for big-time critics and people who don’t have kids, but they provided a lot of silliness and charm to keep the young ones distracted from real-life problems. This is Gosnell’s first project as a director in five years, and even though I doubt that this film will be good, I’m always in a mood for something that has live-action animals with CGI facial expressions. I mean, I didn’t mind the live-action Scooby-Doo films when I was growing up, and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” was pretty enjoyable for what it is, so maybe this could wind up being in that type of category.
The story is set in a reality where humans and talking dogs co-exist, although they don’t communicate with one another. It follows the same veins as the Sandra Bullock comedy, “Miss Congeniality”, in which a police dog named Max (voiced by Ludacris) disguises himself as a show dog in order to infiltrate a fabulous dog show and rescue a baby panda from animal smugglers. I’m not joking, ladies and gentlemen, this is actually a kid-friendly version of “Miss Congeniality” with dogs. I should know because my mother told me that when she saw the trailer for the film herself. Similar to the other films that involve talking animals, “Show Dogs” has plenty of entertaining and harmless moments that’ll delight both young kids and dog lovers alike, along with some supportive messages about friendship and trusting one another. Unfortunately, everything else did almost nothing to fully explore these themes. In other words, it’s basically a simple and silly live-action cartoon that’s best suited for television or on a streaming service. The performances from the cast showed some effort in their performances, both human and dog. Ludacris delivered a likable performance as the voice of Max, and Will Arnett…well, he’s just there to get an easy paycheck. One of the reasons why I believe the film won’t impress people outside of its target audience would have to be the execution on its story. Raja Gosnell likes to keep things simple and harmless for the little ones, and I respect that, but for a film that expresses its themes of friendship, he could’ve done a lot better than that. Not only was the narrative structure a bit predictable and uneven during a few scenes, but the relationship between the characters felt either rushed or weak, most notably Max and his partner, Frank, which can lead to unfulfilled connections between the characters and the audience. I didn’t mind the film’s use of CGI for the dogs’ facial expressions, but in some occasions, it wasn’t very convincing, especially the CGI on the baby panda. The humor is quite possibly the real kick in the knee. Despite a couple of amusing jokes, the film’s use of dog humor and one-liners ranged from forced to corny as heck. The other adults might think they’re funny, but to me, they rarely made a dent in my funny bone.
Overall, “Show Dogs” has a few cute moments that’ll make kids and dog-lovers wag their tails with glee, but it will also make everyone else growl with hatred. While the performances from the cast were tolerable at best, they’re not enough to win “Best in Show” due to its disappointing story and weak characters. As a family film, it’s an OK piece of counter-programming for those who are way too young to see Deadpool. As a regular piece of filmmaking, you’re better off watching “Deadpool 2” again.