Film Review – Show Dogs (2018)

by Nick Kush
Show Dogs

One overlooked element of the requirements of a film critic is go into every film with a level head.  Bias will always creep into a review in one way or another, but remaining as impartial as possible before viewing the film is necessary for a fair critique.  However, every so often, there’s a film that looks so unbelievably terrible from its promotional material that the concept of impartiality is challenged to the highest degree.  Show Dogs is the latest example of such a film.  But, in this case, the film deserves every piece of derision thrown its way.

The following review is spoiler free.


Directed By: Raja Gosnell

Written By: Max Botkin

Starring: Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Will Arnett, Natasha Lyonne, Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming, Gabriel Iglesias, and Shaquille O’Neal

Max (Ludacris) is a police dog for the NYPD.  His tough exterior has helped him in many cases, helping him to become one the more trusted dogs on the force.

However, during a stake out for a possible contraband swap at a harbor, Max uncovers a plot to move and eventually sell a panda that was smuggled into the country, and he quickly goes after the henchmen at the center of the swap.

It turns out that one of the henchmen is an undercover FBI agent, Frank (Arnett), and he’s not happy that Max blew his lead.

With new intel that the panda will be swapped at a dog show in Las Vegas, Max and Frank must pair up to enter the show to aid in the investigation.  But, the mismatched pair will need to get on the same page so that they can stay in the competition and prolong the investigation until they have answers.


Well, here we are.  The most anticipated movie of the year is finally here.

In all seriousness, there comes a time every so often where a trailer drops and everyone has a reaction that goes a little something like this: “wait, this isn’t a fake trailer?  This is REAL?”

This phenomenon doesn’t come around very often anymore as studios have come to understand to properly highlight their work to moviegoers. Still, Show Dogs proves that it’s still possible to get people laughing at a film rather than with the film before it ever hits theaters.  In a weird way, maybe it was beneficial to the film in terms of the old adage “all publicity is good publicity.”

If you ask me, however, Show Dogs was destined to become a cult favorite by the ironic moviegoing population before it ever hit theaters.

show dogs

image via Variety

Improper Use of CGI Makes Every Line of Dialogue Cringeworthy

At one point during Show Dogs’ seemingly endless runtime, it provides a line of meta humor that goes a little something like this:

“For some reason, they just don’t make talking animal movies anymore.”

Congratulations, movie.  You played yourself.

Before you can ever get attached to the characters or the story (good luck with that one), there’s one painfully obvious obstacle that you have to hurdle as a viewer: creepy CGI mouth movements.  Show Dogs is a live-action affair with talking animals, meaning that the film utilizes effects in order to generate mouth movements…and it never stops being creepy.

From the cramped show room that Show Dogs uses for its dog show arena to countless stock footage aerial views of Las Vegas, it’s clear that Show Dogs is doing its best to cut corners due to budget constraints.  However, it creates a serious problem when the dogs — who are the main characters of the film — must speak.   It’s like the Henry Cavill mustache gate all over again but without the best effects artists onboard.  Every frame falls down the uncanny valley, and it never ceases.  Normally, lackluster effects can fade to the background if the rest of the film is moderately enthralling, but Show Dogs’ visual problems never allow the viewer to approach that point.

show dogs

image via Rogers Movie Nation

Show Dogs has Enough Puns for 1,000 Feature Films

Clearly, this movie is aiming for a younger audience, so a lot of the dialogue and the humor slants that way as well.  The problem is that screenwriters sought out this age range way too hard.  The result?  A movie with an endless supply of puns.

For a select few, the dialogue will swing hard in to the realm of unintentional comedy that Show Dogs may become a cult hit for the ironic moviegoing audience.  Personally, it swings into the other extreme of bad cinema: aggressively annoying.

As you know, the film populates itself with voices such as Ludacris, Stanley Tucci, Shaq, and many more.  Not only are these actors horribly miscast to play dogs, but the dialogue creates such a disconnect that it’s jarring at every turn.  It’s a tough idea to express unless you’ve seen the movie, but hearing Ludacris exclaim, “here we go again!” in a joking manner as a dog is just plain wrong.

Show Dogs carries itself with a noticeable amount of arrogance as it believes that these puns are hilarious, throwing one after the other in quick succession into a dialogue scene.  Little do they know that the entire charade becomes insufferable in approximately 37 seconds.

I’m not proud of this as a critic, but I cried out “stop!” at the screen after one excruciating pun sequence.  Luckily, others were finding better use of their time as I was the lone, unlucky soul in the auditorium.

show dogs

image via

Show Dogs is Far Too Complex

In an odd twist, the plot of Show Dogs is both frustratingly derivative and also needlessly complex.

You’ve seen this mismatched pair bit used in countless other comedies over the years, and the rest of the movie plays hard into the tired tropes of the subgenre with little to no variation.  The problem with this version of the comedic duo is that they don’t understand each other.  In the world of Show Dogs, humans cannot comprehend what the dogs are saying.  So rather than some sort of heartwarming scene where the pair comes to a truce and puts their differences aside for the greater good of the mission, it just happens out of nowhere…because…reasons?

Added to the mix are way too many groups of smugglers and a widespread black market animal sale interwoven with bizarrely crude, prolonged bits of comedy in a film that is meant for children.  Show Dogs simply forgets its intended audience in its far-reaching aim.  I can only describe the failure of this movie with one word: oof.

Ohh well, I hope Will Arnett received a nice paycheck for his troubles.

show dogs

image via NY Daily News

Final Thoughts

Not only is Show Dogs one of the worst movies of 2018 (if not the worst), it might be one of the more annoying films of the year as well.  Stuffed to the brim with puns and phoned-in voice and live-action performances, this supposed “kid-friendly” film will most likely only appeal to those under the age of four.

It’s one thing to make a movie that doesn’t come together in the end.  Making movies is incredibly difficult, and it has happened to some of the best filmmakers of all-time.  But, Show Dogs carries itself with an underlying arrogance, beating the audience over the head with dialogue and sequences that it believes are endlessly entertaining.  When you create a movie this misguided, it simply cannot be forgiven.

Grade: F

show dogs

image via Roger Ebert

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Bobby Kemp May 27, 2018 - 2:59 pm

Show Dogs was an all around good movie , I watched it with my wife
mother-in-law and 3 grandsons and we all laughed the whole show.
But I am glad they took a few scenes out with no problem or fuss.
To me that says a lot about this film maker .
Max who’s real name is Que was neutered two years ago
so he really did not have to go to a zen place , This is done to most all male dogs that are in movies.
And here is the though of the day , We fuss about a funny kids show
BUT what about the R rated movies they watch at home with and without
Mom & Dad , Or are they shipped off to grand maws on movie night
may be grand maw don’t have a TV . What they see on TV is way worse
than a few scenes in Show Dogs , And have you looked at any commercials lately ” OUCH
We can’t take a knee we must take a stand for our children and
grandchildren , at the movie theater , on the TV set, At school ,
book stands , and every where there at ,
And we let thousands of baby’s every year be aborted ( GO FIGURE)
And we thing Show Dogs is Bad God Help Us

Nick Kush May 27, 2018 - 4:02 pm

Hey I hear ya! I guess everything can get chalked up to “the times are changing,” even if that is sort of a cop out

Arsene_Lucifer May 26, 2018 - 10:46 pm

Wow, not even kids dragged their parents to see this during your screening lol. I saw a trailer for this when I went to see Paddington 2, and the few children that were there didn’t seem interested in it. Everything about it just looked terrible. However, oh boy, all those puns would drive me insane.

I wonder if PETA would consider the making of this movie a form of animal abuse lol

Nick Kush May 26, 2018 - 10:51 pm


Olaf Lesniak May 25, 2018 - 3:04 pm

So basically…..

Anonymous May 24, 2018 - 6:47 pm

My favorite quote from this post:

“I’m not proud of this as a critic, but I cried out “stop!” at the screen after one excruciating pun sequence. Luckily, others were finding better use of their time as I was the lone, unlucky soul in the auditorium.”

When I first saw the trailer for this, I was hoping it would somehow be good—both for the sake of the authors and to spare myself the secondhand embarrassment—but honestly I wasn’t hopeful. It already seems like live-action talking-animal films have an iffy track record and are hard to get right, so I’m not surprised to hear that it was a flop.

Although I guess I am a bit surprised by just how bad it apparently is! I was thinking very weak and mediocre, but this seems to cross the line into absolutely awful…yet maybe just shy of being awful enough to be hilarious. Gah.

Nick Kush May 24, 2018 - 7:21 pm

Lol! A lot of people are saying it’s hilariously bad, but personally I just couldn’t stand it!

Keith Noakes May 24, 2018 - 1:15 pm

Maximum cringe.

Nick Kush May 24, 2018 - 1:17 pm


Keith Noakes May 24, 2018 - 1:25 pm

I did like when the pigeon said that you can flip me anytime.

Michael Van Zanten May 24, 2018 - 12:46 pm

This movie sounds horrific.

Nick Kush May 24, 2018 - 12:48 pm

And it looks it too! 😂😂


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