WAGGING its tail at the idea of talking animals as if Babe and Cats & Dogs never existed is this dog-eared crime comedy that stretches, mines and plunders its already thin premise for all its worth. And that ain’t much.

Will Arnett looks embarrassed to be there as Frank, a gruff New York City police detective who finds himself reluctantly teamed up with the station’s heroic, lone-wolf Rottweiler Max (voiced by rapper-turned-actor Ludacris) to investigate the theft and suspected black market sale of a rare panda.

As part of their escapades they have to go undercover in a glitzy dog show in Las Vegas – imagine Crufts by way of a Liberace show and you sort of get the idea. Will they learn life lessons? Will tough cop Frank and no-nonsense Max learn to get along after all? And, most importantly, will it ever reveal the point of why this exists in the first place?

The film is as good as the WTF premise suggests, you’ll be unsurprised to hear.

Even for the very young target audience at which it’s aimed, this is naff stuff. It goes about things with a glib smirk on its face – too self-aware by half and, perhaps, most importantly for that target audience, misses the all-important and genuine message of the bond that can exist between humans and dogs. Even the romantic subplot involving Frank and dog groomer Mattie (Natasha Lyonne) feels unnecessary and wholly unconvincing.

Everything is played for cheap laughs. That would be alright if they were, you know, actually funny. The jokes do arrive thick and fast but with an emphasis on the former, constantly lowering the tone with gags that are at best uncomfortable and at worst downright inappropriate. Particularly unsettling is a scene in which Arnett’s put-upon detective has to intimately inspect and style a dog’s nether regions before the big show (yes, really).

It’s a moment that encapsulates the lowest-common-denominator quality of the whole endeavour. Stanley Tucci’s French-accented pampered pooch Philippe puts it: “I cannot polish the turd but perhaps I can roll it in glitter.” There isn’t enough glitter in the whole world to make this one look good.