A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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, all of these scenes will be removed 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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 all scenes related to genital touching will 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. 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?
Kids: What made you want to see this movie -- the story, or all the advertising for it?
- In theaters: May 18, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: August 21, 2018
- Cast: Will Arnett, Ludacris, Alan Cumming
- Director: Raja Gosnell
- Studio: Global Road Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: suggestive and rude humor, language and some action
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.