Dog movies are hard to make without sinking into maudlin sentiment, and talking dog movies are hard to make without going beyond a certain threshold of silly. But if you can make either sort of film without the usual pitfalls, then you’re pretty much golden and deserve all the plaudits you’ve earned. That being said, if you thought Show Dogs was going to be one of those movies that gets it right, you’re going to want to sit down before you read this review, because it’s even worse than it looks.
A rare baby panda is in play on the black market, and both a NYPD police dog (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and an FBI agent (Will Arnett) are hot on the trail. The only problem is, they get in each other’s way every chance they get, especially when they’re teamed up to infiltrate a high class dog show in an effort to save the panda. Both of these lawmen could stand to learn a new trick or two, and if they can make the grade, they just might end up liking each other.
Devoting words to how bad Show Dogs truly is can be a pretty hard prospect, considering there aren’t enough words invented to truly convey just how bad parts of this turkey are. It’s an extremely cheap looking affair that would have been better suited as a direct-to-video film, and considering the director originated the Beverly Hills Chihuahua franchise, that’s not a big surprise. (By the way, that series is now canon in the Show Dogs universe, thanks to a “cute” cameo.)
While worse films have been able to rely on the cast to lift the material up, the script behind Show Dogs is so lead lined that not even normally charming actors like Will Arnett, Chris Bridges, or even Stanley Tucci, are able to bring this one up from the floor. Most of this problem is chalked up to the lazy plotting, and even lazier meta-humor the film tries to inject into its efforts. Again, this is an element that can work in a kid’s movie if it’s done properly, like in the early days of the Shrek franchise; but when your ending gag is a tiger ziplining through Vegas, whilst saying “This is the real life of Pi,” you’ve pretty much given up.
It’s not like a movie like Show Dogs is hard to make into a competent affair. With a couple brush passes, this script could have been put through its paces and turned into something better resembling a basic animal comedy. Even director Raja Gosnell, who has directed such competent films as Scooby Doo, The Smurfs, and even Beverly Hills Chihuahua, should have been able to execute this film with a minimal effort that’d provide easy cinematic distraction for children, until they reach an age where their tastes kick in.
As a finished product, Show Dogs is a film so lazy, it can’t even muster the energy to lick itself. Instead, it just lies there, and assumes you’ll laugh at the basic gags that are supposed to pass as humor. Watching this movie had me repeating one word, very frequently, and very violently in my mind: How. How did this script get bought? How did this movie get green-lit? How did this distributor think this could compete on a weekend when Deadpool 2 is opening, and kids can still revisit Avengers: Infinity War, should they choose to do so? The only plausible origin story I can think of for Show Dogs is that someone forgot to curb their pet, this script dropped out, and someone thought it’d be a fair tax write off that’d have the excuse of the competition being too great. Air Bud wept.