Plot: Frank (Will Arnett) is an undercover agent who was poised to solve a kidnapped panda case, but the operation went south when he and a rival agent converged on the case, unable to cooperate in the process. That rival agent was Max, a veteran police officer who happens to be a Rottweiler. But they will need to put aside their egos and learn to work together, as the panda case had led to a dog show, which means Max and Frank need each other to rescue the little fuzzball. Of course, Max is no show dog, so he gets some help from a grizzled Papillion named Felipe, a former world champion, while Frank gets tips from show dog queen Mattie (Natasha Lyonne). But can these two rivals somehow find common ground and help each other, or will the panda be lost forever thanks to their stubborn attitudes?
Entertainment Value: Show Dogs was panned by critics and while it is no classic, I don’t think it is as terrible as most claim. This is is pure silliness, a paper thin narrative peppered with lame jokes and pop culture references, with a mild attempt at some social lessons wedged in. In other words, the movie never tries to be more than light fun and while not all of the humor works, for a younger audience, the slapstick and over the top voice work likely lands more often. An adult might groan at the constant wackiness and terrible visual effects, but those same adults are probably praising Marvel for following a similar formula. I think Show Dogs is fine, sometimes humorous, sometimes abysmal, but it has some bright spots. I loved the line that skewered A Dog’s Purpose, as one dog worries they will be replaced by CGI when a horde of dogs begin the jump into a pool, though the humor is rarely that on point. But I think younger viewers will have some solid laughs here and to be honest, I found Show Dogs to be better than expected, mainly for all the ridiculous elements.
Will Arnett has is our live action lead and he is a little more straight man here than normal, so he isn’t at his best. He is still fun to watch, especially when things spiral out of control, but I wish he was let loose more. I think his comic abilities shine when he is given over the top elements to work with, so having him as the straight man seems like an odd choice. Natasha Lyonne also has a prominent role and she is good here, not to mention she looks fantastic. This role is much different than her normal ones, with a brighter, more perky presence, but she nails it. Of course, she isn’t given all that much to do, but she adds a lot to the movie. But my favorite part of Show Dogs is Felipe, a strange little dog voice by Stanley Tucci. Felipe has the best lines and is used well, not around all the time, but enough to steal the show. The voice cast here also includes Alan Cumming, RuPaul, Shaq, and Jordin Sparks, among others. Show Dogs is silly and ridiculous, but I think it has gotten a bad rap from critics, who overlooked the quirky humor and over the top performances.