Show Dogs feels like a film airlifted from the noughties and reincarnated for the streaming generation. Of course, it is the work of Beverley Hills Chihuahua director Raja Gosnell. The talking dogs are a big giveaway.
The film’s half-baked premise is served in a slapdash fashion. This is a world in which dogs can talk but humans do not understand them; canine sentience is only occasionally recognised and yet dogs are employed officially by the NYPD. If young audiences can accept such a set up without finding it increasingly infuriating as the negligible plot progresses, then fine. So be it.
Max (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) is a headstrong Rottweiler – ‘a street dog with a temper’ – who finds himself teamed up with Will Arnett’s dog-sceptic FBI agent Frank after a kidnapped baby panda is linked to an upcoming dog show in Las Vegas. The quirky buddy cop duo naturally take some time to work in harmony but must do so if they are to have any hope of saving the day and kickstarting a kid-friendly franchise. Cue montages, pop music and juvenile grooming gags.
Being thoroughly inane, Show Dogs hasn’t an original trick to its name. From cockney baddies – repeatedly spluttering the word ‘guvnor’ – to a ditsy Pug and snooty Yorkie the script practically writes itself. Perhaps this is why flat performances all round are repeatedly reduced to delivering lame dialogue. ‘I think everyone deserves to choose love for themselves,’ says Arnett, ‘even if they’re a dog’.
Best in show is Natasha Lyonne, known for her role in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, who does at least bring likability to playtime. As for the dogs, when not morphed with so-so CGI, they’re a genial enough bunch. Voiced by the likes of Jordin Sparks, Gabriel Iglesias and Stanley Tucci, each forgettably fulfils its purpose. Come to Show Dogs for cute canines and undemanding humour alone and it does deliver. To its credit, the film boasts a smart reference to another of Arnett’s recent roles and a zen Komondor called Karma.
As a film that seems to have been assembled from YouTube clips, Show Dogs is best described in the same terms. It is often adorable and occasionally funny but ultimately a waste of ninety minutes.