By: Oberst Von & Hawk Ripjaw (Six Pack) –
-Oberst: Show Dogs, the latest talking dog movie by director Raja Gosnell (Scooby Doo 1 and 2, Beverly Hills Chihuahua) is just too much for me to handle on my own. Therefore I have drafted my good friend and fellow victim Hawk Ripjaw to assist me with the review.
-Hawk: Always glad to help, Ken. So Show Dogs features police dog Max (Ludacris, not quite reaching enough cinematic relevance to ditch his stage name) forced to team up with FBI agent Frank (Will Arnett) to stop a group of exotic animal smugglers from kidnapping an adorably tutorial quality CGI panda. Max, a gruff loner, and Frank, an unexplained dog-hater, can’t stand each other.
-Oberst: The aforementioned Panda cub seems to be a combination of the “Snuggle” fabric softener bear and part Ewok.
So Max and Frank begrudgingly team up together to find the missing Panda cub. Their investigation takes them to Las Vegas, where an international Dog Show is being used as cover for an animal smuggling operation. There Max is entered in the competition and must go undercover as a well bred show dog rather than the scraggly street dog he thinks he is.
-Oberst: Most talking dog movies are straight to VOD quickies with a low budget and B-level casting. For this film they sprung for Will Arnett. He does what he can to liven up the weak script with his signature “over his head” boobery. One of the few sincere laughs I got from the movie was a scene early on where Will was undercover and trying to attract the attention of the animal smugglers in the least subtle way possible. He literally walks up to people at a party and loudly professes his interest in acquiring a Panda for “medical use”. Arnett’s character is basically like season 7+ Homer Simpson; in that he feels like he crossed the line long ago from incompetence to mentally challenged.
-Hawk: I’d argue that analogy extends to every last living organism involved in the production and distribution of this movie, but your point stands. Also, I’m not sure why, but it was almost weirder that the humans didn’t understand the animals. In a smarter movie, the communication barrier could have played into the characters’ dynamic as a team, but Arnett is so badly directed that he acts like he understands Max anyway.
-Oberst: Director Raja Gosnell is making me pine even more for the talents of Disney-VOD dog movie master Robert Vince. Sure, Robert Vince’s movies are no less corny and full of broad stereotypical humor, and are made even more cheaply. But damn it there are kernels of creativity that must be there, because Hawk and I keep coming back to his movies. I have no reason to watch another Raja film though.
-Hawk: When you can safely say that Scooby-Doo is Raja Gosnell’s best movie, you know that this man has put out some pure stinkers. We came to the conclusion back in January that Vince has a weirdly consistent style in a way that may or may not Stockholm Syndrome one into respecting the man as a sort of auteur of the subgenre. The movies aren’t good, but he knows exactly what he’s doing and how to do it. Gosnell appears to be getting very good at pissing audiences off.
-Oberst: The supporting voice talent that is wasted on this movie is ridiculous. First there is the Australian Shepherd voiced by an American Idol winner playing a dog who never sings (Jordin Sparks). Stanley Tucci voices a stereotypically French Papillon. Shaquille O’Neal plays that dog from a Beck album cover, and finally you get the eccentric Alan Cumming as a stuck-up Yorkie…
-Hawk: Shaq was pretty stereotypical but mostly harmless, but Stanley Tucci’s performance made me want to throw myself out of a window. Raja Gosnell has this bizarre tendency to direct his vocal and physical actors to be as annoying as possible, because for some reason this is supposed to translate to comedy. He envisions only broad, racially and culturally stereotypical characters that are defined solely by their racial and cultural stereotypes. Worse, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even realize that he’s one of the most insensitive family film directors working.
-Oberst: The CGI in these talking dog movies has always been worrying. And while the CGI is certainly a step up from Robert Vince’s Buddies movies, it will never… ever be convincing. Disney’s Homeward Bound stands out as a talking animal movie that feels more believable, instead of having the dogs mouths move, voice actors just deliver dialogue and the actions of the dogs moves the narrative along. As if they are translating the wordless but complex body language of the animals into English. The uncanny valley effect works on animals the same as it does on humans.
-Hawk: Is it though? IS IT a step up? Maybe my brain’s getting good at surviving trauma, but I don’t recall the Buddies movies featuring rubbery-looking dogs making human expressions and dabbing. The Buddies movies do look pretty fake with just the lower part of the mouth moving robotically, but there are also some weird moments here where they try to make a dog barking line up with the dialogue, and it just looks like an extremely cheap voiceover.
-Oberst: The “dog show” aspect of the film feels like where corners were cut the most. Anyone who has watched major international dog shows on TV knows that they are events that take place in venues with a large floor section, like a basketball court. (The Westminster Kennel Club show takes place in Madison Square Garden, for instance). The dog show in this film takes place in what appears to be Conference Room 3B at an airport Radisson.
-Hawk: This also shows in the level of training the the animal actors, which appears lazy at best when a large majority of the dog “stunts” are established through wacky, rubbery CG than thorough the dogs actually being trained to do cool stuff, which completely deflates the energy of a dog show. Children are not stupid, which is why the dog show segments in my auditorium saw the most instances of parents leaving with their kids for restroom or snack breaks–or just walking out in general.
-Oberst: While I commend the filmmaker for pushing the PG rated film with some innuendo and body-part physical humor that you’re not accustomed to encountering in a family movie, I was left wondering who exactly this movie was being made for. This sort of broad talking dog comedy is not something that appeals to everyone in the family, and is really just meant as babysitting material to distract the kids while Mom and Dad text their single friends to find out what freedom feels like at their age. So when you throw in jokes about dog balls being felt up by the judges, it seems counter-intuitive to the purpose. Little Johnny and little Sue are bound to ask questions and damn it, what self-respecting parent wants to answer QUESTIONS?
-Hawk: Like I mentioned above, there were a lot of restless children in this movie, a lot of moving around, a lot of parents checking phones, a lot of everyone coming and going, and a whole lot of absolutely no one so much as cracking a smile for 98% of the movie. This is one of the most fatal instances of trying to attract adults to a kids’ movie. It tries to have references that might make adults feel a bit better about seeing this, but it just comes across as a kid trying to sound cool for an adult. These movies don’t need adult references. It’s a fucking talking dog movie. The adult made the decision to pay money to come see A MOVIE ABOUT A TALKING POLICE DOG TEAMING UP WITH AN FBI AGENT and that adult should never, ever expect anything more than that very basic concept because this is what you signed up for. To try to add adult humor is to preemptively feel bad that half of your eventual audience is paying to see your movie.
-Oberst: if they find my dead body after this review is published, tell the world that Show Dogs gave me an aneurysm.
-Hawk: Look, I’ve been watching bad movies all week and I’ve had enough, damn it! Someone needs to stand up for good family films. There is almost literally nothing funny, attractive, interesting, engaging, memorable, thought-provoking, or relevant about Show Dogs besides the refresher on Raja Gosnell’s bizarre autopilot non-talent. You can search “talking dogs” on Netflix and we can tell you WITH INFORMED, CONFIDENT EXPERIENCE that most of them are better than this. Somebody put a stop to this madness.
Show Dogs (2018) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: for every animal pun
Take a Drink: for Will Arnett boobery
Do a Shot: for dog testicle jokes in a movie for children
Take a Drink: for CGI dog dancing