Will Arnett makes a barking career move with this cheesy canine caper
'Why am I talking to dogs?' grumbles Will Arnett, not unreasonably. With a new series of Arrested Development incoming and recent triumphs in The LEGO Batman Movie and BoJack Horseman, Show Dogs seems a barking choice career-wise; playing second fiddle to a pooch is the acting equivalent of begging for scraps and this cheesy kids' caper doesn't exactly break the mould.
Directed by Raja Gosnell, who has form of sorts having helmed Beverley Hills Chihuahua, the plot is basically Miss Congeniality with mutts. It follows maverick NYPD Rottweiler Max (voiced by Ludacris) as he teams up with Arnett's exasperated FBI agent Frank. The mismatched pair head to Vegas where they go undercover at the Canini Invitational, a prestigious dog show being used as a front for animal smuggling. Natasha Lyonne (from Orange Is the New Black) makes an upbeat and mildly bemused love interest, as she imparts her canine expertise to the clueless duo.
Amidst the anarchy, Arnett delivers an uncharacteristically lacklustre comic turn and while Lyonne's involvement is even more mystifying she, at least, takes it winningly in her stride. If the live-action performers have reason to be embarrassed because we can see their faces, the more anonymous voice cast – including Alan Cumming and RuPaul – have a ball inhabiting their dogs; Stanley Tucci completely steals the film with his globe-trotting accent and off-the-leash exuberance, voicing diva-like former champ Philippe, who ends up in the pound after losing his rag.
There are some guilty giggles here, not least as there's something inherently funny about bitchy dogs, and presenting familiar story beats in a canine context (including an attempt at romance) can be amusingly anomalous. However, the attempt to impose the requisite morality lessons on the ethically dubious practice of dog shows feels a bit rich, and goofier moments involving CG manipulation are truly cringing.
Animal lovers will fill their boots on the parade of cute pooches and the adorable baby panda. Kids might be sold on the silliness. Everyone else will wonder what the hell is going on, as suspense builds toward a much-feared genital inspection (of the dog, not Arnett), set to LMFAO's 'Sexy and I Know It'.
General release from Fri 25 May.