Show Dogs

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Show Dogs Movie Poster Image
Talking-animal buddy comedy dogged by controversy.
  • PG
  • 2018
  • 92 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 71 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 21 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Kids will learn about different dog breeds and about how dogs and handlers compete in dog shows.

Positive Messages

Encourages teamwork, friendship, and not judging others based on stereotypes or first impressions. Scenes in which a dog's private parts are handled to prepare him for dog show judging (while he's told to "focus on not reacting" and to go to his "happy place") can be seen as sending problematic messages about consent and potential grooming for abuse; those scenes were removed for the film's home-viewing release.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Max learns to overcome his prejudice against the show dogs and appreciate how difficult it is to compete in the shows. Frank and Max are able to bond and work together despite their differences. Capable female characters.

Violence & Scariness

Car pursuits; a baby panda is kidnapped; it's said a dog has "anger issues"; an armed bodyguard, a police dog, and an FBI agent chase one another. Dogs bite/are aggressive with people. An innocent dog is captured; a villain and police officer face off with guns and have a fistfight. A tiger attacks a pilot (offscreen). A dog undergoes a full-body exam -- including his genitals -- without being able to give consent and is told to go to his happy place to get through it (these scenes will be removed for the film's home-viewing version). He's also subjected to an unwilling "bikini wax."

Sexy Stuff

Flirting between dogs and also between humans. Vague references to a male dog's "equipment" and a dog's alpha status. (See "Violence" for content related to the movie's controversial touching scenes.)


Infrequent iffy language includes "grow some balls," "flip this bird," "stupid," "hell," "damn," and "bull," "imbecile," "oh my God," "B.S.," etc., as well as scatological humor like fart jokes. "Weiner dog" is used as an insult. A character says "son of a ..." but doesn't finish the sentence.


Mindfreak: Criss Angel billboard, Caesar's Palace hotel/casino, iPhone, iPad, Winnebago, promotional partnerships with Big Boy Restaurants International, Healthy Spot, Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, Pooch Selfie and Spectrum Brands' Dingo and FURminator (all of which are visible in the movie), Ford, Chevy Tahoe, Dodge.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults hold drinks at receptions. A dog makes a joke about clearing out a hotel mini bar. One of Max's informants wants a bag of catnip for his troubles.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Show Dogs is a talking-animal comedy starring Will Arnett as an FBI agent who teams up with Max, a New York City police dog (voiced by Christopher "Ludacris" Bridges), to find smugglers who stole a baby panda. The partners must enter a prestigious dog show in Las Vegas to track down the culprits. There's some vaguely suggestive humor about Max's alpha-male status, scatological (i.e. fart) jokes, and iffy/crude language like "grow some balls." One controversial plot point centers on Max's genitals being examined as preparation for the final part of the dog show (where it will be part of the required examination); he clearly doesn't like the experience and is coached on how to get through it ("go to your happy place"), which some viewers see as being uncomfortably close to the experience of sexual abuse. Due to the outcry over these scenes, the studio released a slightly edited version, but there are still images of Max being touched by his human partner and, briefly, a show judge; the "happy place" line also remains. (According to the distributor, these scenes were edited further for the movie's home-viewing release.) Action/tense moments include car chases and other pursuits, an innocent dog being captured, and a villain and a police officer facing off with guns and having a fistfight.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 3 and 6-year-old Written byJo R. May 21, 2018

Horrible message

One of the side plots of this movie is that the main character must learn how to allow others to TOUCH HIS PRIVATE PARTS. The main character dog repeatedly sn... Continue reading
Parent Written byChronas May 21, 2018


As a 20-year veteran of our city prosecutor's office, I spent many years prosecuting sexual offenses. I'm disturbed by the content in this movie, and... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 20, 2018


this movie is horrible, unoriginal and the acting is so bad... the real question is how it could even be approved. There is an unnessacary scene when Max
(the... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byElena_ 1234 May 25, 2018

Parents should stop overreacting!

Honestly the parents who keep overreacting saying " oh it's so inappropriate! omg! There are bad messages in this movie!" You are the ones taking... Continue reading

What's the story?

SHOW DOGS follows Max (voiced by Christopher "Ludacris" Bridges), a Rottweiler New York City police dog who's forced to work with Frank (Will Arnett), an FBI detective, to track down a smuggling ring responsible for stealing a baby panda from a Chinese zoo. When it's revealed that the smugglers will be at a prestigious Las Vegas dog show, Frank and Max are assigned to attend as a handler and show dog pair. In Las Vegas, the duo teams up with Mattie (Natasha Lyonne), a respected handler who's also a police contact, to prepare to compete in the show. Max also gets help from Phillippe (voiced by Stanley Tucci), a pompous Chihuahua who was once a top show dog, and Daisy, an attractive border collie (voiced by Jordin Sparks) who sees through Max's bravado. As they work undercover, Frank and Max bond.

Is it any good?

It's quite possible that young kids may find this human-animal buddy comedy entertaining, but parents will have a hard time seeing past the fact that it's unnecessary and unfunny. There are too many pop culture jokes about Turner & Hooch, The Lego Movie, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and so on that will go over kids' heads and won't earn genuine laughs from adults. A few of the sight gags and jokes land, but most are just as likely to result in a cringe or an eye roll. Both the human and canine romances are bland, with no real viewer investment in either (although individually the female characters are more capable and likable than the males). And, of course, there's the biggest issue of all: the scenes in which Max is prepped for the dog show judges by having his genitals handled, which he doesn't like and which he's advised to get through by going to his "happy place." This controversial sequence struck some viewers as being uncomfortably close to the process of grooming kids for sexual abuse and led to the studio making some changes to the film: The groping and "happy place" line remained in the updated theatrical edit, but more were scheduled to be removed for the home-viewing version of the film, per the distributor.

Very few live-action talking-animal movies deserve to stand the test of time (The Adventures of Milo and Otis, Homeward Bound, Stuart Little, the pug in Men in Black are some of the only ones), and this one is no exception. But if parents can't contain their kids' enthusiasm for Show Dogs, chalk it up to the abiding appeal of movies featuring man's best friend.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the controversy surrounding Show Dogs. If you saw it in theaters, did you notice the scenes in which Max's private parts were touched by his human partner (and the dog show judge) and he was advised to zone out to get over it? If so, were they upsetting to you? If not, do you understand why they would be to others?

  • Why do you think talking animal movies are frequently popular with kids and families? Which ones are your favorites?

  • Who would you consider to be a role model in Show Dogs? How is teamwork portrayed in the movie?

  • Kids: What made you want to see this movie -- the story, or all the advertising for it?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animal movies

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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