Rottweiler police dog Max (Ludacris) and human detective Frank (Will Arnett) don’t exactly see eye to eye and things are about to get ruffer. After finding that a number of animal smuggling cases could be linked to a dog show in Las Vegas, the two are assigned the task of going undercover and entering the competition. But howl it be possible when Max isn’t the most elegant of dogs, and after getting off on the wrong paw, will he and Frank ever get along?
Yes, folks we’re in for another live-action talking animal movie because gosh darnit, the kids just love them. In this writer’s opinion, none of them have ever been good with the exception of 1995’s Babe and maybe Homeward Bound (though I would argue that the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia have made that film seem better than it is). In any case, they just keep coming. Dogs seem to lead a lot of these movies, with Beverly Hills Chihuahua (from the same director as Show Dogs, incidentally), Marmaduke and Cats & Dogs providing recent examples, and it makes sense since they’re so cute to look at. Filmmakers seem to hope that the love and affection dogs naturally inspire will translate into love of the movie. In Show Dogs, while we have by no means a good film, at least it isn’t painfully bad.
In its lead, Ludacris is ludicrous (sorry, last pun), making the minimum of effort to give Max any character. The vocal performances vary, with Jordin Sparks being totally replaceable, while Stanley Tucci (who’s just great in everything) and comedian Gabriel Iglesias bring life and fun into their supporting roles. The humans’ acting is an improvement too with Will Arnett, God love him, giving the role his all – even when forced to endure the horrors of slapstick, including getting knocked down, bitten in the butt and falling over dozens of times – while OITNB’s Natasha Lyonne is a charming addition.
It’s a shame that after films like this year’s Peter Rabbit exemplify how to expertly blend CGI into live action, we still get cheap, atrocious-looking CGI in movies like this. The biggest sins include fake-looking pigeons, a baby panda, and tiger, and anything involving dancing dogs. There are also several points at which logic is pushed to the limit, including the dogs having a ridiculous amount of access in the police station, but you won’t really care if you just go with it. The movie zips along and it has its moments of charm from the doggies so all in all, parents can bring their little ones to it and not feel like they’re being tortured.