Reviewed by: Keith Rowe
Are DOGS mentioned in the Bible? Answer
People and dogs that protect the public from criminals
Will Arnett … Frank
Ludacris … Max (voice)—a Rottweiler
Alan Cumming … Dante (voice)—a haughty Yorkie
Stanley Tucci … Philippe (voice)—a French Papillon
Jordin Sparks … Daisy (voice)—an Australian Shepherd
Natasha Lyonne … Mattie
Gabriel Iglesias … Sprinkles (voice)—a Pug
RuPaul … Persephone
Shaquille O'Neal … Karma (voice)—a Komondor
Ronni Ancona … Poopsie Chow's Owner
Omar Chaparro … Señor Gabriel
Cristina Dohmen … Kristina Fernandes
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|Producer:||Open Road Films
Riverstone Pictures [Great Britain]
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Open Road Films
The movie opens in New York City, at night, as police dog Max (voiced by rapper Ludacris) is surveilling the nefarious activities of some animal thieves. Just as Max is about to rescue a caged panda, a mustached man blocks his advance, allowing the furry animal to be taken by the panda-nappers. Turns out the man is also trying to rescue the poor panda… he’s actually an FBI agent named Frank (Will Arnett).
The cops receive a tip that the thieves are using a dog show in Las Vegas as a front for their illegal animal smuggling operation. Max and Frank are thrown together “Turner and Hooch” (1989) style and are tasked with tracking down the thieves and rescuing the panda. The twist is that Max will be entered as a contestant in the dog show. Turning aggressive street dog Max into a well-groomed, well-mannered canine is just one of the many challenges this unlikely duo must face as they attempt to take a bite out of crime.
If the plot sounds familiar, it is. “Show Dogs” is, at its core, a talking animal version of the Sandra Bullock vehicle, “Miss Congeniality” (2000). However, whereas “Miss Congeniality” was a crowd-pleasing romp, “Show Dogs” is a witless dud… and that’s putting it mildly.
The screenplay, written by Max Botkin and Marc Hyman (not to be confused with wellness physician, Mark Hyman), is mind-numbingly inane, even by talking animal movie standards. The story is merely a loose assemblage of cheesy one-liners (“I knew I smelled bad attitude.”), hyperreal high jinks (like Max bending his way around a moving car “Matrix” style) and disgusting images (like the spinach, egg shells and whole raw fish smoothie) held together by a contrived plot. From one set of credits to the other, there’s no stoppage of dialog. These characters (mostly animal) just never shut up. Sadly, much of what they say is offensive and doesn’t have any substance whatsoever.
Despite its pedestrian plot, the film has attracted an array of top-tier talent. In addition to human characters like Mattie (perfectly played by Natasha Lyonne from “Orange is the New Black”), the movie’s various talking animals are voiced by notables from a number of different entertainment segments, including: actors Alan Cumming and Stanley Tucci), athletes (Shaquille O’Neal), singers (Jordin Sparks as an Australian Shepherd ), comedians (Gabriel Iglesias) and reality TV show hosts (RuPaul).
Okay, so let’s get to the question at the forefront of everyone’s mind… is this movie appropriate for kids? In a word, not even remotely.
Somewhere along the way, writers started working adult jokes into kid’s movies in order to hold the attention of mature viewers. Their justification for these guised gags is that they would sail right over the heads of younger audience members. This is a gross underestimation of the impressionable and increasingly savvy children in our society. The truth is, young people are assimilating these crude references whether they completely understand them or not.
So here we have a litany of adult jokes shrouded in seemingly innocuous moments of levity. Though subtly delivered in most cases, the movie is filled with double entendres. In one scene, where Max is bragging about his status as alpha male, he says, “If you were to compare me to other dogs, I wouldn’t come up lacking.” A supposed animal expert tells Frank, “What an exquisitely striking specimen you possess.” The line is supposed to refer to Max, but the way it’s delivered makes you think the flattering statement is directed at Frank. One member of the Pigeon PD is in love with Max. First she emphasizes the fact that Max works alone, indicating her desire to be his partner. Then, after Max tosses a bad guy over a fence, she says, “He can flip this bird any day.”
There’s an awkward scene where the sidekick Papillion (Stanley Tucci) invites Max (Ludacris) to sleep on the same bed with him and Frank, stating that it’s “what nature intended.” The dog follows that up by saying that “there is plenty of room for trois,” which hints at a ménage a trois, and makes an uncomfortable scene even more disturbing.
A whole section of the film deals with preparing Max for when the judge will inspect his private areas. As would be expected, this part of the competition creates many unnecessary comments, especially during the bikini wax sequence. When Max is inspected, the Rottweiler retreats to a happy place in his mind where he dances with Frank on a ballroom floor. This scene is inappropriate and crosses the line of proper relations between humans and dogs. The final scene of the film, which shows three dogs bathing together au naturel in a Jacuzzi, also gives one a queasy feeling.
And who decided to set this supposedly “family” film in Vegas? Is there a more family unfriendly location the writers could’ve chosen? One character observes that Vegas is marked by luxury and excess, which would seem to indicate how unsuitable it is for the location of a kid’s movie. Even though dancers and other performers are appropriately clothed in most cases, the overall atmosphere of the movie is very adult.
As the main character, Max is a terrible role model. Before he realizes Frank is an FBI agent, Max bites Frank in the butt. Soon after, Frank remarks to the police chief that Max has anger issues. Max displays a bad attitude when Frank orders him to heel. Max tells Frank, “Heel yourself,” and strikes off on his own. One fellow contestant sums up the Rottweiler perfectly by stating that Max is cynical, overbearing, can’t work in a team and doesn’t trust anyone.
Max is also an instigator of pranks and other rude gestures. When Max is being pampered in a bath, the dog’s flatulence makes bubbles in the water. In one sequence, Max commits a disorderly act by jumping into the fountain at a resort. Other dogs soon join him, much to the chagrin of their owners. Some onlooking dogs chant, “Party, party, party!” Besides, encouraging bad behavior, this scene only adds to the party atmosphere that pervades many of the movie’s Vegas scenes.
As a trained police dog, Max is supremely confident when faced with adversity. During the physical fitness portion of the dog show, Max wins all of the challenges by intimidating the competition or by bending the rules. Though Max’ “unorthodox showboating” puts him at the top of the leader board, it’s regrettable that this win-at-all-costs character trait was modeled for younger audience members.
Max’ character is somewhat redeemed at the end when he realizes the necessity of enlisting the help of others. Max confesses to having disrespected everyone and everything on his trip to Vegas. Though these are positive character moments, they certainly don’t make up for the myriad transgressions Max committed earlier in the film.
Some action scenes may be disturbing for younger children. A police shootout contains some mild violence. Though it takes place off-screen, a dog is beaten and left for dead. Max attacks the villain and ends up in jail. Mattie punches a thug in the face twice. There’s some momentary peril when the caged panda drifts toward a plane’s spinning propeller.
Someone is shown making a snorting gesture, which we may assume is drugs. There’s a brief mention of champagne and adults hold drinks at various receptions.
As for expletives, there are a couple “h*lls” and da*ns. There are many instances of unsavory words like: “stupid,” “B.S.,” “turd,” “bull,” “dang,” “freakin,” and “heck.” At one point in the action, Max says, “Ah, grow some balls.” Fortunately the phrase “Son of a…” isn’t finished.
The movie is packed with rude or suggestive humor. At one point, Max says, “You run like a wiener dog.” Frank later counters with, “I’m going to neuter that mongrel.” One male dog hitting on a female dog says, “Is it hot in here or is it you?” When a male and female dog start eating the opposite ends of a hot dog, one eavesdropper says, “He’s Lady and the Tramping her.” When Frank pushes Max through a window, the dog says, “Just lifting, not squeezing.” And there’s plenty of potty humor too: “Future generations of pigeons will poop on statues of us.”
The movie isn’t blatantly anti-faith, but one scene involves a dog engaging in a mock prayer, “Dear Lord, forgive my student’s ignorance and guide him to victory.” Also, we hear RuPaul (as pooch Persephone) say his coined phrase, “Can I get an ‘amen’ up in here?” which also comes off as sacrilegious.
I could take up more space detailing the many negative aspects of “Show Dogs,” but hopefully these examples will serve as a deterrent for those considering this film for their next family night. Parents are strongly cautioned to steer their kids away from this movie and toward more wholesome entertainment. Don’t let anyone fool you; “Show Dogs” isn’t a family film.
The Distributor provided this announcement…
“The movie Show Dogs sends a troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse. It contains MULTIPLE SCENES where a dog character must have its private parts inspected, in the course of which the dog is uncomfortable and wants to stop but is told to go to a ‘zen place.’ The dog is rewarded with advancing to the final round of the dog show after passing this barrier. Disturbingly, these are similar tactics child abusers use when grooming children—telling them to pretend they are somewhere else, and that they will get a reward for withstanding their discomfort. Children’s movies must be held to a higher standard, and must teach children bodily autonomy, the ability to say ‘no’ and safety, not confusing messages endorsing unwanted genital touching.” The organization’s director called on “Global Road Entertainment, the distribution company, to halt the distribution of Show Dogs in movie theaters and to recut the movie so that it no longer contains such unsafe themes.”
“Responding to concerns raised by moviegoers and some specific organizations, Global Road Entertainment has decided to remove TWO SCENES from the film ‘Show Dogs’ that some have deemed not appropriate for children. …The company takes these matters very seriously and remains committed to providing quality entertainment for the intended audiences based on the film’s rating. We apologize to anybody who feels the original version of ‘Show Dogs’ sent an inappropriate message. The revised version of the film will be available for viewing nationwide starting this weekend.”