In the pre-roll, Bo and Sunny Obama, Portuguese Water Dogs to the President of the United States, train some of the puppies set to paw their way onto the GEICO stadium. Their real activities are secret. We're instead shown the propaganda of exercise, healthy eating and kids with weird contortions on their faces (people may refer to these as smiles?) as they exert themselves outside the comfort of Cheetos laden clothes and soft drink stained furniture.
A LEGO mini-figure from The LEGO Movie, Emmet (Chris Pratt), flips the coin and the referee, Dan Schachne, calls "cute puppies" to receive.
Mandy, a 17 week Dachshund from Tennessee, is the first to the touching of the downs, running parallel against the line. So let's call that receiving. If you're not on Mandy's team, you're the side that wasn't called cute. Ginger, a 12 week Ye Olde English Sheepdog from Ohio, takes a flag for excessive hydration, but we're only in the first quarter. Someone call the vet. Hold up, Ginger is harassing the ref, racks up three penalties inside a minute, and rushes for a TD.
Not yet into the second quarter as the next lot of puppies come down the chute. Bayla, the 12 week Boxer; Poppy, a 16 week Shih Tzu from Florida and Pong, a 12 week Havanese from Orlando just some of the new blood taking to the field. At this stage we can start counting which pups are shown again or those that just disappear between the breaks. Many will run down, few are remembered.
Given its ten year anniversary, it's a veritable clip show. Compilation after compilation of top 10 lists such as "Best Waterbowl Shots" to "Best Puppy Player" showing off how infectious it all is.
Strange play for a minute or two as both ends see puppies blocking the end zones, no calls. Poppy, 16 weeks a Shih Tzu from Florida, flagged for taunting.
To the second quarter and Laney, a 13 week Brittany from Colorado, stretches the entire length of the stadium and flips a ball over for a touchdown. Shyla, 14 weeks a Great Pyrenees from Kentucky, ones up the casualness and rolls a ball over in a smooth "how you do" grace of effort.
The ghostly spectre of Keyboard Cat claws his way onto the arena for the half time show. And it's all on him. Trotted out over Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven", the once alive cat is the only one doing any work. The other kittens on the field, on the stage and about, are only nodding and following off-camera gestures. They look up in cuteness as bubbles containing the spirit of Keyboard Cat fall down the screen. They are reactionary at a barely there level.
An elaborate series of domino shows pattern the field as a backing track and we're left to question a pets' mortality and just how many years long after they've been put into the ground can you wrestle their carcass out of the dirt, shampoo it and dress it up for the neighbours to marvel at. The answer obviously varies based on how loose your ethics are and until another cat is worth our time to exploit.
Onward with the show.
The third quarter and Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppets shill, and hard, for the upcoming Muppets Most Wanted movie. Labelling it the Piggy Bowl now, she's questioning why on Earth do they need all these puppies. To eat of course.
Taking a cue from the blackout of Super Bowl XLVII, the lights go dark in Animal Planet stadium. One quick call to "Maintenance" and the lights are back up. But, down the belly of the stadium, in the underground of shame, a lone hamster is now running the wheel to the endless cycle that is the rest of its life. Forever trapped in the spin, churning enough energy to get through the rest of the game.
There's talk about blaming the power drain Keyboard Cat and the instrumental half time show performance. If you're blaming it on the dead cat, you're going to have to point toward all the electricity used to jump start death and breath twitchy life into a shell of a pelt. Victor Frankenstein didn't just hand crank the Modern Prometheus. He needed the almighty juice from the heavens. That is a high power requirement. There's at least three hamsters in a bin somewhere, their bodies all bones and exhaustion.
Out on the field, Bayla is all out aggressive, taking the field in territorial pounces, paws pointing here and there. There's a tussle between Bayla and Loren and it's done as quick as Loren breaks out to score back-to-back touchdowns at both ends of the stadium as Bayla is off showboating. Loren now makes four touchdowns for the Brittany.
Final quarter sees an interesting play as August, a 12 week Boxer from Washington, drops like a feather as Maximus, another Boxer (though from North Carolina) breezes past. Lily cops an "excessive cuteness" flag and joins two other pups who swarm the ref, drowning his face in tongues and kisses. Lily continues the cuteness storm, now in with Shyla and it's all aww. August wants none of that and tries in vain to shake things up.
The penguin cheerleaders this year are a bit sus. Always looking up into the stands, their eyes darting whenever they're on the fake grass. Are they waiting for their contact to give the signal? Is this the end or just the start of many a subterfuge?
Van Helsing, a wisened Basset Hound from Kentucky, is the oldest to putter onto the field, being 24 weeks at the time of filming. No scores, no goals, Van Helsing proves to be all flash and seniority without any of the charm that comes from point scoring showers.
Madness in the eyes of Parker, 12 weeks old and a Labrador/Husky mix from Georgia. First a touchdown, then a run around the goals to stare down the rest of the field and competition. This pup has got energy and eyes to melt. He's also got a head for the intimidation game.
Rudy, some unspecified terrier, finally makes it into the field of play in the last few minutes, but does nothing to change any outcome or set any lights ablaze. Bach, a 14 week Bernese Mountain Dog/Poodle Mix from Pennsylvania, scores the final touchdown and doffs the night.
On screen it's a game without teams, each dog for themselves. The reality is that it's the East Coast versus the West Coast, so many are the puppies from either US Pacific or US Eastern time zones. In the end, it's the East's Puppy Bowl. The strength of Loren and Laney's 5 not enough to best 8, led by Mandy.
On scoring four touchdowns, Loren, the 13 week Brittany from Colorado, takes out the Bissell MVP trophy.
In the closing montage we learn that August, Bach, Bayla, Shyla and Loren find forever homes. Which, by the calculations of omission, means the rest go on to live lives forever bounced around in the foster care system. Such is life.
Reviewed on Monday, 3 February 2014