25 May 2018

Children's animal movie sparks grooming controversy

2:23 pm on 25 May 2018

The Chief Censor will review a children's movie that stirred up controversy overseas, even after it was announced the offending scenes would be removed.

The scene being questioned involves lead character, police dog Max.

The scene being questioned involves lead character, police dog Max. Photo: Facebook / Dog Show Film

Show Dogs contained a scene where the main character, a dog, was forced to have his genitals touched in order to save the day.

The movie, rated PG, was released in the US this week and is due to come out in New Zealand in October.

US movie reviewer Terina Maldonado, who watched the film with her three young children, said the plot involved the lead character - a police dog called Max - saving the day by infiltrating a dog show and winning first prize.

She said for him to win, Max needed to have his genitals inspected by a judge - which Max does not want - however he is told to go to his 'zen place' and wait for it to be all over.

"The moment comes when they're at the finals and the judge comes to do the inspection. You see a shot of [Max's] face and then it goes to the montage of doggy happiness, he disassociates with what is going on.

"Then it comes back to the moment and he is now the hero because he has won the show," she said.

Ms Maldonado was paid to do the review by an independent public relations company, and it was published on US Macaroni Kid's website.

Audiences across the country quickly hit back at production company Global Road Entertainment. On Facebook the show now has a review rating of 1.3 out of 5, and on Rotten Tomatoes 1.9 out of 5.

Ms Maldonado said on the car ride home after the movie, her eight-year-old daughter said the judging scene was her favourite part.

"I was just in disbelief, so I took a deep breath and used it as a teaching opportunity to talk to her about consent."

New Zealand's chief censor David Shanks said the film would be independently classified before it could be released domestically.

"We have called in the film to be examined according to our legal criteria and an official classification and content warning will be issued in due course. At this point we cannot prejudge what the classification will be," he said.

The company responded, two days after Ms Maldonado's review went viral, with a statement apologising for any offence caused but it refused to take action.

"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."

However a day later, the company changed its tune.

"[We have] decided to remove two scenes from the film ... the company takes these matters very seriously."

"The revised version of the film will be available for viewing nation-wide starting this weekend."

The classification office said the film would still be classified in New Zealand, for peace of mind.