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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Show Dogs

Watching Show Dogs, I was reminded of a movie from a couple summers ago called Nine Lives.  That was the movie where Kevin Spacey was a New York businessman who slipped into a coma and found his soul transported into the body of his daughter's new cat, and how he learned to be a better father by being a cat, and with the help of a mysterious pet store owner played by Christopher Walken.  I was reminded, because just like that movie, this one represents a new low point in both children's entertainment and talking animal movies.

Now, Nine Lives was a lousy movie.  I even named it one of the 10 Worst Films of 2016.  But, at least it was kind of interesting, because it had a premise that was bat-crap crazy, and actors who had no place being anywhere near it.  Show Dogs, on the other hand, is a fairly routine movie about a police dog named Max (voice by Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) who is teamed up with a human FBI agent (Will Arnett, who is slumming it here, and seems to know it) to go undercover at a Las Vegas dog show that is acting as a front for a criminal gang that has stolen a rare baby panda from a zoo, and are planning to sell it.  The movie shows us how Max the dog learns how hard it is to be a "show dog", and learns to trust his human partner as well.  Meanwhile, his human partner learns how to love dogs.  So, it's kind of like Miss Congeniality meets Turner and Hooch.  The Tom Hanks dog movie actually gets mentioned in the dialogue a couple times, but the Sandra Bullock film does not.

All of the dogs in the movie talk with the aid of unconvincing special effects that often looks like lip flap, or a film loop on repeat.  In my experience, I prefer it when we get to hear what an animal is thinking, rather than using special effects to make it look like the animal is talking.  It's also kind of confusing how the movie treats its talking animals, as it often seems like the human characters can't hear or understand what the dogs are saying.  And then, sometimes it seems like they can.  If the special effects used to make the dogs talk are terrible, then the ones used to show the dogs doing stunts are flat out abysmal.  During the film, we see Max leap off of walls Matrix-style, and swing from ropes to perform a daring rescue.  In the film's most embarrassing moment, we get a fantasy sequence where Will Arnett and the dog recreate the climactic dance scene from Dirty Dancing, with the dog lifting Arnett up into the air.  Yes.

I don't ask a lot from talking dog movies.  Maybe a clever line of dialogue, or a sweet moment or two.  Show Dogs is bankrupt not only in the realm of special effects, but also in terms of writing, acting and directing.  The actors who provide the voices for the various dogs that aid Max in his mission include the likes of Stanley Tucci (also slumming it), Shaquille O'Neal, Gabriel Iglesias, Jordin Sparks, RuPaul, and Alan Cumming.  This film serves as yet another odd career note in Cumming's resume, who is normally a fine actor, but often finds himself drawn to garbage kiddie films like this, Son of the Mask and The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas.  None of the animals or their accompanying voices get to make much of an impression, but it works out, since the writers forgot to give us an interesting human character.  Meanwhile, the direction by Raja Gosnell (who has been responsible for other talking dog movies, like Scooby-Doo and Beverly Hills Chihuahua) is so flat, the movie often looks like a direct to DVD movie, which is really what it should be, rather than taking up valuable theater space.

Here is a movie that shows us that dogs can dance, pose, and even fly airplanes or drive cars.  What it can't do is create any entertainment value from these images.  You would think that would be hard to do.  At the very least, the filmmakers have pulled off what would seem to be impossible.  Maybe next time they'll pull off a movie worth watching.

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