Friday 25 May 2018

"Show Dogs" (Guardian 25/05/18)

Show Dogs *
Dir: Raja Gosnell. With: Will Arnett, Natasha Lyonne and the voices of Ludacris and Jordin Sparks. 92 mins. Cert: PG

Were you to need further proof of Western cultural decadence, consider the staggering manhours moviemakers have logged filming dogs doing things dogs aren’t generally inclined to do: playing competitive sports (1997’s Air Bud, 1999’s Soccer Dog), seeking Simon Cowell’s approval (2014’s Pudsey), rolling over for second billing behind long-eclipsed humanoid stars. Show Dogs hails from that good-cop-dog-cop line that once begat Turner and Hooch and K-9 – but its USP is that the mutts now bark back with (minor) celebrity voices. If your actual dog were this lame, you’d be making ominous arrangements with the vet, not hustling everybody towards the cinema.

Director Raja Gosnell has previous with these cinematic chewtoys, although there was obvious tail-off even between 2002’s Scooby Doo and 2008’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Here, we get a shaggy-looking Will Arnett and Max the Rottweiler (voiced by rapper Ludacris), who emerge from the first act’s matted exposition having to enter a Vegas beauty contest so as to apprehend nefarious panda smugglers. Anyway, never mind about the plot, because – look – dogs! Dogs with badges! Farting dogs! Dogs getting bikini waxes! Dogs having their privates inspected! No film in motion picture history can ever have made more fuss about the state of one canine’s anus.

Of the handlers, Arnett has the terse air of a man doing anything he can to keep up with his alimony payments; Natasha Lyonne submits to a makeover so comprehensive she’s all but unrecognisable, a smart move on reflection. Mostly, it’s anonymous voices growling unfunny references, very cheaply inserted between the jaws of creatures with no idea of the indignities this production had in store for them. Few will leave Show Dogs feeling shortchanged – it’s as mirthlessly cynical as it looks – but it does suggest we perhaps need a dog equivalent of those movements presently working to make the industry a healthier place. #TimesPup? 

Show Dogs opens in cinemas nationwide today.

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