SHOW DOGS: A Strong Contender For Worst Film Of The Year
With a barely comprehensible plot and mind-numbing jokes, Show Dogs is a film which feels like a labour to sit through despite its fairly short run-time.
Show Dogs is the latest film in the ‘Talking Animal Comedy’ genre. This one is directed by Raja Gosnell, the man behind Beverly Hills Chihuahua and The Smurfs movie. Will Arnett plays Frank and Ludacris his canine sidekick, two FBI agents who infiltrate a world-famous dog show to track down the illegal poacher of a panda which was imported to the US illegally. Natasha Lyonne of Orange is the New Black fame stars as Mattie, an FBI dogs expert. Those three names will be an integral part of this review.
I’m going to cut to the chase and say that the film isn’t any good, and there are so many reasons why. The first is that this is a comedy film in which there are no funny jokes. Writers Max Botkin and Mark Hyman are the kind of people who believe a dabbing dog and a man being bitten on the behind are the height of comedy. I find it hard to believe that I don’t find Show Dogs funny because I’m not the target audience. I saw this in a screening with at least twenty other people, which mostly consisted of children under the age of ten. None of them were laughing either.
They have also tried to include some self-referential ‘adult jokes’ into the mix, including a moment in which a dog looks at the camera and says, ‘nobody makes Talking Dog Movies any more.’ If nothing else, Show Dogs serves as pretty damning proof as to why they don’t. It’s also worth mentioning that the film included a scene which has now been omitted from the theatrical version in which Frank’s partner, Max (Ludacris), has to go to his ‘happy place’ when one of the judges touches his testicles against his will. It was the view of a lot of people that the joke normalised child grooming. That’s the territory we’re in here.
The Stars Of Show Dogs
The cast of Show Dogs includes a few very big names, most notably Will Arnett. That’s common for these kinds of films. 2016’s Nine Lives included Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Garner. Jamie Lee Curtis is a member of the cast on Beverley Hills Chihuahua. Nine Lives had a budget of $30 million and took a box office return of $57.8 million. Show Dogs had a budget of $5.5 million and took in $13.4 million during its opening weekend.
My point is that a film like this will always have a smaller budget than its box office return because they’re a business move above all else. I have no proof of this, but I’m sure a large amount of that budget is used on hiring household names that will attract paying audiences.
As for the acting in the film, it’s functional, but you do get the sense that everyone involved is going through the motions. It seems as if Arnett knew the material wasn’t funny, and in a lot of scenes he looks embarrassed to be there. Ludacris and Natasha Lyonne come off a little better, but there won’t be any Oscars talk for this film.
All of the supporting characters are like stock characters from the least funny pantomime of all time, one of whom is the one of the most annoying black market traders ever committed to screen. The writing in those scenes is so colourless and uninteresting, it’s impossible to forgive the fact that they were shoehorned in to advance the plot.
The Plot Of Show Dogs
It’s very hard to tell when this film is breaking its own rules. The concept is that the humans can talk amongst themselves, as can the animals, but neither species can understand each other. However, there appear to be times in which the human characters understand why the dogs do certain things, and other times when they don’t. It’s hard to tell whether the human characters were supposed to understand these things instinctively, or if the writers simply forgot the things they’d previously included in the script.
It’s never entirely explained why dogs work for the FBI, either. Are there a lot of dog shows that need infiltrating? Do other animals work for the force? How do the dogs know what their assignments are if they can’t communicate with the human staff at the FBI? These are questions which are never answered, and in a world in which there are plenty of high quality children’s films (practically the entirety of the Disney back catalogue, or even mediocre animated comedies like Storks), why would anyone settle for a film as lazy as this?
All of this is done with pretty much no verve. Show Dogs isn’t an ugly-looking film, it’s just an unbelievably bland one. In terms of the cinematography, there’s such a lack of creativity that it’s hard to remember most of the scenes in the film. The entire thing, from the script to the soundtrack, is an exercise in lazy production and the ninety-minute run time feels like a much longer one. For reference, Blade Runner 2049 is almost three hours long, and never boring. After twenty minutes of Show Dogs, I was ready to leave.
Show Dogs: Conclusion
At the end of the day, Show Dogs is a film nobody is going to remember two days after leaving the cinema, let alone two years. With a barely comprehensible plot and mind-numbing jokes, it’s a film which feels like a labour to sit through despite its fairly short run-time. I’m sure this will be one of the worst films of the year. Somewhere in hell, there’s a cinema showing nothing but Show Dogs on repeat for eternity, and believe me, there’s never been a better reason not to sin.
Have you seen Show Dogs? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.
Show Dogs was released on the 25th of May in the UK and the 18th of May in the US.
Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.