By Kurt Jensen
Distasteful jokes, usually involving something scatological, are the bane of many films marketed to children, and the otherwise amiable comedy “Show Dogs” (Global Road) falls prey to this trend in an unusually off-putting way.
The sequence in question involves Max, a street-toughened Rottweiler voiced by Chris “Ludacris’ Bridges. He and his FBI agent partner Frank (Will Arnett) are infiltrating a fancy dog show in Las Vegas in search of a baby panda which is being sold on the black market, using the competition as a front. They’re helped by cheerful groomer Mattie (Natasha Lyonne).
Preparation for the show involves genital waxing, which is a common practice in real life — as is judges touching this area. The whole process makes Max uncomfortable and he is not shy about expressing his dislike of it. Philippe (voice of Stanley Tucci), a former champion Pomeranian with anger issues who serves as Max’s coach, advises him to think of his “Zen place.”
While all this is surely intended to be humorous, some abuse prevention advocates have warned that the sequence parallels the experiences of children who have been molested. These concerns are disturbing, raising the question whether the film was ever shown to a preview audience of parents who would perhaps have spotted the problem.
Combining live action with computer-generated animation, director Raja Gosnell and screenwriters Max Botkin and Marc Hyman, all veterans of this brand of animated silliness, keep the pacing fast and other objectionable content to a minimum.
Dogs breaking into chaos provide most of the humor. Max makes frequent references to “Turner & Hooch,” a 1989 comedy co-starring Tom Hanks and a slobbering Bordeaux Mastiff. The bad guys are more stupid than evil, and the panda occasionally gets the best of them as well.
The film contains fleeting anatomical and scatological humor involving animals, some of it potentially problematic for youngsters. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.