Film review: Canine Caper Show Dogs is all bark and no bite

Natasha Lyonne as Mattie, Max (voiced by Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) and Will Arnett as Frank in Show Dogs

RAJA Gosnell, director of Beverly Hill Chihuahua, collars a buddy cop movie, which is essentially Miss Congeniality on four legs, with dysfunctional canines replacing the beauty queens.

Show Dogs is a shaggy dog tale of questionable pedigree that will probably delight very young audiences, who might gurgle with glee at the sight of a Rottweiler sneakily breaking wind while an unsuspecting owner is soaping its rear.

Anyone with an age in double digits will be less enthralled, and grateful that this preposterous undercover sting at one of the world's most prestigious animal shows only wags its tail for 92 minutes.

The script is poor and repeatedly short-changes a starry ensemble cast.

Comic whirlwind RuPaul barely achieves a light breeze by recycling catchphrases from hit reality series Drag Race while Stanley Tucci is reduced to delivering limp lines in a cod-French accent as a pampered Papillon.

The human cast don't fare much better, gamely keeping straight faces as canine co-stars run amok before the application of technical wizardry to enhance their facial expressions.

Outtakes during the end credits give some sense of the behind-the-scenes madness but fail to elicit more than a chuckle.

Max (voiced by Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) is one of the finest police dogs on the force and he leads a sting on a gang of animal smugglers, who have taken possession of a baby panda named Ling Li.

Just as Max is poised to make an arrest, the FBI led by federal agent Frank (Will Arnett) gatecrashes the operation and the criminal mastermind escapes.

The trail of evidence leads to a high-profile dog show in Las Vegas, which the FBI believes is a front for a lucrative trade in creature trafficking.

Frank and Max agree to go undercover as contestants to unmask the criminals and return the animals to the wild or their rightful owners.

Veteran handler Mattie (Natasha Lyonne) mentors Frank while Max gets a crash course in posing with confidence from a sneering Papillon called Philippe (Tucci), an Australian Shepherd called Daisy (Jordin Sparks), a Pug called Sprinkles (Gabriel Iglesias), a Hungarian sheepdog called Karma (Shaquille O'Neal) and resident fashionista Persephone (RuPaul).

"You're a street dog with a temper. What do you know about dog shows?" one rival growls at Max.

Thankfully, the Rottweiler has a few tricks between his paws to impress the judges.

Show Dogs cocks its leg at plausibility in an opening set piece and never looks back, unleashing a tiger for a climactic showdown between the cops and the smugglers.

Gosnell directs each flimsily constructed sequence with urgency, showcasing the glittering lights of Las Vegas which provide a lurid backdrop to the cross-species calamity.

The script is all bark and no bite, slobbering over fleeting moments of touching emotion.

Alas, this will never win best in show.

SHOW DOGS (PG, 92 mins) Comedy/Romance/Action. Will Arnett, Natasha Lyonne and the voices of Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Stanley Tucci, Jordin Sparks, Gabriel Iglesias, RuPaul, Shaquille O'Neal, Alan Cumming. Director: Raja Gosnell.

RATING: 4/10

Released: May 25 (UK & Ireland)

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