A word first about the technology of this live action movie, which enables the real dogs of the title to appear to talk. It is very clever but it doesn’t look right on a dog’s face, going against the essence of what makes a dog – well – a dog!
Some of the canines in this also get to do digitally manipulated things, such as dance on their hind legs and fly through the air on a Las Vegas aerial fairground type ride, which are very un-dog. Other animals featured in the film include a baby panda, played by a chow puppy in digital disguise and a tiger, whom I am guessing is a purely digital creation. He’s pretty cool, though not as beautiful or as central to the plot as the tiger in “Life of Pi”. And he too is manipulated to do some silly and untigerish things.
So that’s the technology acknowledged. The story of the film? Not very interesting or original. Canine hero of the piece is Max, a rough, tough police dog convincingly voiced by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. In a virtually incomprehensible opening action sequence, he tackles some bad guys, who’ve kidnapped that baby panda to sell for profit to a private collector. He doesn’t nab them yet though. That’s part of the plot of the film. These same villains are also after whoever wins the doggy beauty contest of the title. So Max has to learn to ponce around as a show dog, go undercover and foil the kidnappers.
Despite its PG certificate parents may find the film is somewhat violent and coarse for children, while being pedestrian and lacking in wit for adults. Jokes about dog’s genitals getting a Brazilian waxing are a bit on the gross out movie side. There are also a couple of yappy pigeons commenting on the action in the opening and closing scenes, who are just really annoying.
On the plus side Stanley Tucci voicing veteran French show dog Philippe, who attempts to train Max in the business of show, adds a touch of style and Jordin Sparks as beauty queen show dog Daisy, who is Max’s love interest, is quite appealing. Humans don’t get much of a look in. Will Arnett as Max’s partner (not handler – this is a doggy movie) is nothing more than a stooge who gets his trousers torn from time to time.
There’s one last thing going against this movie. Max is a rottweiler. A very handsome one, to be sure but a rottweiler never the less. The film was partly shot in Wales but even so the American “creatives” appear to be unaware of just how bad a press rottweilers get in the UK.