Somewhere between the first time Will Arnett is bitten on the butt, and when Shaquille O’Neal shows up voicing a sheepdog that sounds stoned, a realization occurs:
“Show Dogs” is really bad, even for a talking dog movie.
The genre isn’t exactly filled with Library of Congress-bound classics. But this live action PG-rated comedy is making such a minimal effort that at times it’s striking. Visual effects sequences seem unfinished. Jokes are written with pop culture references that are mostly forgotten. The normally reliable Will Arnett slips in and out of a New York accent, as if no one is telling him when the camera is rolling.
“Show Dogs” is just 90 minutes long, but you’ll swear entire days have passed.
The plot is a note-for-note reboot of the 2000 film “Miss Congeniality,” except with pet shows instead of a beauty pageant. Arnett is a cop who teams with an uncouth police Rottweiler (voiced by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), who must infiltrate an animal theft ring at a dog pageant. The dogs all talk but the humans can’t hear them, a fact that isn’t clear until several sequences into the movie.
The production seems frozen in time from the 1980s, down to a reference to “Turner & Hooch,” a Tom Hanks cop/dog buddy comedy that came out 29 years ago.
But there’s almost no sense of pacing. The filmmaking always seems to be in service of whatever piece of slapstick or one-liner is on the screen at the moment. And these jokes are terrible.
“Show Dogs” seems like an easy target for critics who take filmed entertainment too seriously. It’s mostly aimed at undiscriminating young audiences. It doesn’t pretend to be more than a fun diversion. It co-stars Natasha Lyonne, a solid actress who deserves the easy paycheck.
But movies cost money, and time with your family should be valuable. So make a stand to Hollywood and vote with your wallet: We all deserve a better live action talking dog movie than this.
Rated PG for suggestive and rude humor, language and some action.