So as I settled in to watch Show Dogs, a film starring Will Arnett in the flesh compared to his last work The Nut Job 2 in which he voiced the lead, some news was given to me: apparently there were a couple of moments in the film mmmight be used by pederasts to lure children into seedy situations. Don't believe me? Go google ‘show dogs controversy' and see what I mean. I was stunned and surprised to know this as I watched the film. And as it turns out, the bigger sin may have been that this thing ever saw the light in the first place, because it is bad.
Written by Max Botkin and directed by Raja Gosnell (The Smurfs), the dog in question is Max, whose more kinetic actions are animated via computer and whose voice is given by Chris Bridges, aka Ludacris (Furious 7). Max is a police dog and ‘clashes' with a federal agent named Frank (Arnett) over an investigation. Pretty soon man and dog are put together in an alleged twist on a buddy cop film, as the pair is tasked to thwart a abduction from a very exclusive dog show. Hijinks abound!
So apparently two scenes in particular were removed from the film before its theatrical release that were the cause of the furor from family organizations, and Botkin reportedly disavowed knowledge of these scenes and said more writers that he and the other who received a credit were involved. That said, if we're picking anything apart in the film that maybe comes close to a similar vein, there is one involving a dog and some bikini wax that is a little awkward and not funny, unless watching dogs lick themselves is supposed to make someone laugh.
Which is the larger problem to be honest; Show Dogs isn't worth seeing not because it's controversial, overly or otherwise, it's not worth seeing because it's flat out not good. Most of the film gives us an expression from Arnett's face like he lost a bet and had to appear in the film, and it's palpable in the scenes with the various animals. Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black) plays a dog show official and maybe kinda sorta love interest for Arnett's character and she seems to want to do something with her character but isn't sure what. A hindsight decision, but maybe getting more live bodies onscreen that garnered attention and empathy would have been nice, maybe even a story that didn't knee jerk to a dumb joke or two every three minutes, I don't know.
Strangely enough, the voice actors were the most fun, perhaps because they didn't have to act. Ludacris was…kinda fun as Max, Stanley Tucci plays a French dog, Gabriel Iglesia plays a pug, Shaquille O'Neal plays a big dog, everyone generally gets slotted into comfortable roles that they have fun with. They are enthusiastic, but the roles are limited because the story is derivative and plays more towards laughs that aren't there.
The thing I laughed at when looking at some reports on Show Dogs were even after the cuts were made, a there was still doubts expressed over it and suggestions that parents and caregivers avoid taking their children to the film for it. I would have just said that they shouldn't take their children to the film because it wants to use things like talking animals for laughs and avoid putting in the legwork for a good film either in story or acting.The Blu-ray:
The 1.85:1 widescreen presentation of Show Dogs looks pretty darned good even if the movie is less than polished. Colors are vivid, and image detail within animal fur and human hair is abundant and discernible. The movie's night scenes feature deep, dark black levels and exterior shots lack a little dimensionality but look sharp nonetheless. There are some moments of noticeable image noise that are fleeting but the overall image looks solid.The Sound:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround for the soundtrack, and it is also up to the challenge. A car rumbles by in an early chase and channel panning is present. Subwoofer activity in an obstacle course scene Max is in is a surprise and is also present in moments that also call for it. Dialogue is consistent though the film and requires little user compensation, and directional effects are also present and effective through the feature. Technically the film is pre-tay good, even if the actual film itself isn't.The Extras:
Not even a bone for a small puppy on bonus material.Final Thoughts:
Show Dogs dangles talking dogs in front of your face or your kid's face and thinks that you should laugh as a result. And it would appear the only person who was self-aware of this barren film was a guy who voiced a police Rottweiler. But the story is carried along by near painful moments structured intentionally as laughs that fall flat and devolves gradually over its 90 minutes. It looks and sounds great, but so do a lot of movies that wind up being storytelling disasters. Skip Show Dogs and put on something your kids will like, even it's that animated film that you both have seen daily for the last 14 months.