Show Dogs is a family comedy film in which an NYPD Rottweiler must go undercover at a dog show in order to get into wacky hijinks and set up jokes about dabbing or whatever, but some parents are getting offended by more than just the movie’s banality. That’s because Show Dogs has a scene in which lead dog Max—voiced by Ludacris—has to get his testicles inspected by dog-show judges, and though he recognizes that it’s weird and that it makes him uncomfortable, he gets through it by having what our review called a “quasi-psychedelic vision.” Parenting blog site Macaroni Kid published an essay largely dedicated to this sequence, noting that it seems bizarrely similar to the way a sexual predator would try to “groom children,” specifically with how Max gets through the uncomfortable touching by going to a “zen place” and then gets rewarded once he finishes the inspection.
The implication is that kids who see this could be more susceptible to this kind of grooming from a real predator, since they know the talking dog in the movie got through it just fine, and now the National Center On Sexual Exploitation has even gotten involved. As reported by Vanity Fair, the conservative organization (which also opposes pornography) released a statement that says Show Dogs has a “troubling message” and that family movies “must be held to a higher standard” by teaching kids about “bodily autonomy, the ability to say ‘no,’ and safety, not confusing messages endorsing unwanted genital touching.”
The filmmakers behind Show Dogs have released a statement of their own to Entertainment Weekly, apologizing for the interpretation but noting that this testicle inspection thing is also a real practice that happens at dog shows, so putting it in was an important way to maintain the veracity of this talking dog movie. Here’s the statement in full:
It has come to our attention that there have been online discussion and concern about a particular scene in Show Dogs, a family comedy that is rated PG. The dog show judging in this film is depicted completely accurately as done at shows around the world; and was performed by professional and highly respected dog show judges. Global Road Entertainment and the filmmakers are saddened and apologize to any parent who feels the scene sends a message other than a comedic moment in the film, with no hidden or ulterior meaning, but respect their right to react to any piece of content.
Whether the controversy is blown out of proportion or not, this makes Show Dogs the second high-profile dog movie in a row to become overshadowed by some kind of scandal. Perhaps Hollywood should take this as a sign and start making more cat movies?
UPDATE, 4:30 p.m. CT: In response to growing criticism of the film, production company Global Road says it will re-cut Show Dogs to remove the scenes critics say send a harmful message to children. The new, bad touch-free version of the film will be available in theaters starting this weekend. In a statement to Deadline, Global Road says:
Responding to concerns raised by moviegoers and some specific organizations, Global Road Entertainment has decided to remove two scenes from the film Show Dogs that some have deemed not appropriate for children. The company takes these matters very seriously and remains committed to providing quality entertainment for the intended audiences based on the film’s rating. We apologize to anybody who feels the original version of Show Dogs sent an inappropriate message.