“So what you’re a cop?” –Daisy
“I am undercover as a show dog.” –Max
Max, the Rottweiler must learn what it means to truly be a show dog if he is to discover what happened to the baby panda, Ling Ling, even if it means learning to trust the bozo FBI agent who is helping him.
In a somewhat twist of Mission Impossible meets Hotel for Dogs, Show Dogs has something for everyone. Kids will enjoy the talking dogs who essentially poke fun at the humans that they are with, while there is a deeper message for the adults. The message centers around what it truly takes to be a show dog as well as the trust that comes with it. It’s something that everyone has to deal with and at an hour and a half, the movie does somewhat succeed.
Show Dogs stars a long list of celebrities as the voices of the dogs as well as the companions and the interesting thing, though the dogs are talking, is not whether the characters can understand them word for word. Let’s get to our main character Max, voiced by Ludacris, along with his FBI partner, Frank (Will Arnett). This relationship is interesting because when we first see Max, he is all alone, tracking down the culprits who kidnapped the baby panda. At the same time, he encounters Frank in a somewhat hilarious manner, chasing him down when he thinks he is in on the whole case. Right away, there is a uneasy feeling between the two of them that gets even more interesting in the NYPD police station when the chief pairs them together to go undercover at a dog show.
Funny from the start, the pairing of Ludacris with Arnett is ideal as the two, though Arnett is dealing with a voice-overed dog, mesh well in the finished package. Credit thus also goes to the dog handler offset as they were able to perfectly match the dog’s movements with that of the voiceover. I’m always a fan of voiceovers done the right way with live action animals, as I know animals’ mannerisms are not easy to control.
Subsequently, the film also stars voices including Alan Cumming as Dante, Stanley Tucci as Phillipi, Shaquille O’Neal as Karma and Jordan Sparks as Daisy. All of these voices ring out of the dogs they are portraying. The director, Raja Gosnell, did a great job working with the stars to match each breed’s temperament. For example, O’Neal’s peace and love rings out of Karma as being a big dog with a soft heart, and Stanley Tucci’s spunky temperament as Papillion did justice as well.
As a whole, the film flowed quite nicely as it opened with a kind of spy-ish quality, mirroring that of Mission Impossible or a 007 parody. The camera angles pay off as they perfectly capture both animal and humans, blurring reality and CGI. The wise cracking pigeons were one element that did leave me short, as the editors could’ve very easily used CGI on real pigeons for an extra level of authenticity.
Shot on location in Las Vegas, it was refreshing to see various elements of the Las Vegas strip superimposed with dog-like qualities, such as the runway for the dog show smack dab in the middle of Caesar’s palace. Though Show Dogs may not be for everyone, especially if one doesn’t like dogs, it is a quite enjoyable ride. It’s refreshing to see the difference in dialogue between the dogs as opposed to their human counterparts and yet in the end, the dialogue mirror each other to fit heart of the situation — to rescue the baby panda. The writers did an adequate job of developing the storyline and appealing to all ages as a whole.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
At an hour and thirty minute run time, Show Dogs will take you on an adventure with Max and Frank, as the matter of trust is put to the the ultimate test. Recommended for kids and dog lovers at heart, it is truly an enjoyable film for all who wish to let the dogs take control.