With the release of the highly anticipated Isle of Dogs, there is a fierce amount of canine competition for other blockbusters hitting international screens in 2018. One such contestant in this category is Raja Gosnell, Max Botkin and Marc Hyman’s latest project Show Dogs, a tale that follows the adventures of the police force and their crime-fighting hounds. With the warm on-screen presence of comedian Will Arnett partnered up with a justice-crusading rottweiler – voiced by rap artist Chris “Ludacris” Bridges – there is certainly some tangible potential exuding from the movie’s conceptual foundations.
The end product sees NYPD K9 unit Max (Bridges) team up with federal agent Frank Mosley (Arnett) as they attempt to catch the smuggling villains who have abducted an expensive baby panda named Ling-Li. In order to take down the evil gang and its ringleader, the pair must partner up – much to their displeasure – and compete in the prestigious annual Canini Invitational, where they believe the criminals plan to steal the winner of best in show. With the help of new acquaintances and mentors Mattie Smith (Natasha Lyonne) and French papillion Philippe (Stanley Tucci), the duo must stay in the competition for as long as possible in order to infiltrate the gang and rescue Ling-Li.
No holes barred, it is evident from the inaugural scenes that Show Dogs is a film that attempts to pander to its young target audience through jokes of the lowest denomination. With fart gags, cringey clichés and puns galore, the feature provides a level of entertainment not too dissimilar to that of the Emoji Movie – or the second instalment in the Cats and Dogs franchise, The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Director Raja Gosnell – formerly known for his work on Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Big Momma’s House – has stated that he wished to create “a fun throwback movie,” and that this script was the answer. In truth, the production does hark back to the 1990s and early 2000s, when pictures with talking animals achieved critical success (think Homeward Bound), but in 2018 it is tricky to gauge whether or not demand for this cinematic niche remains, in a world where the children’s film category is dominated by animation.
That said, there is no doubt that the younger generation will enjoy a trip to the cinema to see Show Dogs. The brilliant visual chemistry between Arnett and his canine counterpart brings the screenplay to life with an effortless magnetism and energy that aptly resonates the power between humans and their four-legged friends. There are strong and assured performances both physically and vocally from supporting cast members Lyonne and Tucci, but unfortunately, it is the quality of the writing that has let the movie down. Kudos are due, however, for the amount of effort that has gone into the feature in terms of managing a crew centred around dogs – with up to forty trained canines used in some scenes. What a raucous!
Show Dogs is released nationwide on 25th May 2018.
Watch the trailer for Show Dogs here: