A reviewer fears, incrementally, for these dozing adults. But for the children more. Imagine waking up at nearly any point in this thing, and grasping what you’ve voluntarily paid to subject them to. Say, the shot of Will Arnett intentionally sniffing his canine partner’s undercarriage. Or to hear the tiger – there is, for some reason, a tiger – with a hilaracist Life of Pi accent.
Show Dogs goes out of its way to cause offence, be weird, and not contain a single joke that humans of any age might rationally nod and appreciate. On basic levels of comedic facility, it makes K9 and Turner and Hooch – that venerable double-bill of 1989 cop-and-dog buddy flicks – look positively Shakespearean.
But there’s also a great deal more in it to confuse and disturb. The Rottweiler, Max, is scary, tough, black, and therefore voiced by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. He likes rap. Arnett’s character is more of an Elvis guy. Their mission is to rescue a stolen baby panda, which animal smugglers are using the dog show as cover to export. The animals talk, but people just hear them yapping.
Fine. We can go along with all this – we did in Babe, after all. But why is RuPaul, complete with “sashay away” catchphrase from Drag Race, given a cameo as some freaky, gender-indeterminate Southern belle creature with ratty little braids, whose come-ons Max finds terrifying? This is transphobia for toddlers, surely.
The worst – an insane scene for which the filmmakers have already had to issue formal apologies – is yet to come. To train Max for the judging session, Arnett’s Frank shows him what’s likely to happen, and literally gropes his testicles. The dog angrily recoils. But the next time, Max is coached to go to a Zen place, a fantasy place of happy frolics in the sky amid stars and sequins, while there’s a human hand insidiously touching his privates.
Wake up during this sequence, and most parents would justifiably assume they’d just segued into their worst nightmare, joining the dots in slumber between two very distinct definitions of grooming. How any one of the film’s dozen uncredited screenwriters – let alone a floundering Arnett, or the focus-puller, the entire sound crew, or director Raja (Scooby Doo) Gosnell – thought the scene was a good idea is fairly inexplicable.
But this is Show Dogs all over: an emergency babysitter who arrives in the clown costume from Stephen King’s IT, and expects you not to notice
In the US, Parenting bloggers first raised objections two scenes in Show Dogs, which they said resemble tactics used by child abusers.
“During the movie, I kept thinking, ‘This is wrong, it doesn’t need to be in a kid’s movie,” wrote blogger Terina Maldonado. “Everything else in the movie is good fun except for this.”
Distributor Global Road Entertainment said in a statement Wednesday it “decided to remove two scenes from the film Show Dogs that some have deemed not appropriate for children.”
The statement added: “We apologise to anybody who feels the original version of ‘Show Dogs’ sent an inappropriate message. The revised version of the film will be available for viewing nationwide starting this weekend.”
Maldonado said she was especially disturbed that her daughter said one of the scenes was her favorite part of the movie.
The US National Centre on Sexual Exploitation also objected to the scenes, and urged that they be cut.
The film, starring Will Arnett and the voice of Ludacris was released in the US in May and was the No. 6 film at the box office after earning $6 million.
Show Dogs has a PG rating and will run at Avarua’s Empire theatre till July 4.