Everything is going smoothly for Josh and his basketball playing dog Buddy until a new man shows up in his Mom’s life. Turning to football to get out of the house he finds that Buddy is just as good at catching a pass as scoring some hoops. Can they team up to win the big game and become emotionally open to his Mom’s new beau? Find out in… Air Bud: Golden Receiver.
How?! When we last saw Josh in Air Bud he was just coming to terms with his father’s tragic death through the magic of his basketball playing dog. Now we jump forward and Josh’s mom is looking for that companionship that has been missing for the last several years. One day while out rollerblading she meets cute the new veterinarian in town and boy howdy do the sparks fly. Josh is pretty confused about all this and turns to football to take his mind off things and get him out of the house when the vet comes over (of course this backfires and only brings them closer. Gah!). Happily taking up the role of backup QB, Josh is thrust into action following a shoulder injury to the starter. Oh no! But they suck! He’ll look like such a loser! But wait! Buddy runs onto the field and helps Josh score a touchdown. Suddenly Buddy is the new star player of the team and no one seems to have an issue with this (even when a dog is chasing kids down to force fumbles… which seems problematic). On the day of the big championship game Buddy is kidnapped by a couple of Russian circus owners (in a completely forgettable subplot), leaving the team to fend for themselves. After going down big, they’re saved when the vet rescues Buddy and brings him to the game. On the final play Josh finds the Air Bud within himself and tosses a Hail Mary to an actual human player for the big win! That’s not the only win of the day either because the vet wins in Josh’s heart and the family lives happily ever after. The End.
Why?! I got to say, you can make fun of this film all you want (and there’s a lot to make fun of… a dog plays on a football team after all), but the motivations in this film are actually touching and done with a nuance that you see surprisingly rarely in kids films. Josh’s entire motivation for playing football is to get out of the house when his Mom’s new boyfriend comes over. He wrestles with the emotions that comes with watching her date again and wondering whether liking this new man in his life is a betrayal to his dead father. Buddy once again helps him find love in the sport and grow to realize that not all change is bad and that just because you love football doesn’t mean you love basketball any less (get it?)… it’s nice.
What?! I barely mentioned the subplot of the film which is a pair of Russian circus owners going around the country stealing talented animals. It is a film ruiner and something that should have just been cut in favor of literally anything else. Why do I mention this terrible storyline in the What?! Section? Because one of the owners gets his kicks by watching the 1976 film Gus about a field goal kicking mule who can kick 100 yard field goals. I ran the numbers and indeed that would make them almost undefeatable. A team averages 12 possessions a game. If they could score three points on each they would average at least 36 points a game! They better add a “No Mules” rule… but leave the question of dogs playing open.
Who?! By the second film the original Buddy has passed away, so his part was portrayed by four different dogs: Chance, Zak, Chase, and Rush (sounds like fraternity buddies at Delta Omega Gamma, boom). Surprisingly none of them reprised their role in the subsequent films.
Where?! Like its predecessor this film is set in beautiful Fernfield, Washington. Of course they bely the Vancouver filming location by the ridiculously Canadian way that everyone says “sorry.” B.
When?! We open on the first day of school and end at the football championship. So we can safely say this runs from September to November… however, no exact date was observed so have to keep this a D+.
‘Ello everyone! A sad boy sits at home, his mother on a date, his world reeling. The babysitter asks “Do you want to watch a movie?” Fine. What’s this? A sequel to Air Bud? He likes dogs, he liked that movie. Whatever. But the movie speaks to him! He understands! Just because his mother might go on dates or even get married doesn’t mean she doesn’t love him! And he doesn’t need to forget his father! Air Bud 2 you did it!! One problem: he doesn’t like Air Bud anymore because this movie was trash. It’s a wash! Let’s get into it.
The Good (Sequel / Prequel / Remake) – As I hinted at in the intro the film, much like its predecessor, has its heart in the right place. The B-story works. Which, for a kids film is rare. Examples of real B-stories from children’s films: In Old Dogs Robin Williams and John Travolta are trying to sign Japanese baseball players to a sports marketing contract; In Nine Lives Kevin Spacey’s protege is trying to push him out and force a hostile takeover of his company … in what universe are kids interested in such things? Here, the B-story is that a kid’s mother is starting to date again a few years after the sudden tragic death of his father, and the conflicted feelings of what this means in the young boy’s life. That is a real B-story which probably actually did help some poor kid get through a tough time. The guy who plays the coach also is a very well-written character with a great message to give to the kids. I can appreciate those parts outside of the quality of the surrounding film. I want a sequel though. In this long-awaited sequel we find Air Bud finding success in the most unexpected of all places: high finance! When Air Bud shows an uncanny ability to pick stocks, Josh, now a small fry at the biggest investment bank on Wall Street, quickly finds himself climbing the corporate ladder. Trying to keep his secret weapon under wraps he ultimately uncovers a terrible conspiracy: his boss is selling highly leveraged real estate options to the state teacher union pension fund in an immoral get-rich-quick scheme! Uh-oh! Can Josh expose his boss (and get the girl) before it is too late?! He better, because if he doesn’t Air Bud might just do it for him! Air Bud: Board of Direct-Furs!
The Bad (Sklognalogy) – The Boris and Natasha-esque bad guys are by far the worst part of this film. They probably would have been cut if not for the fact that the film would then be a svelte, far more entertaining 60 minutes long. The first half of this film has basically no football playing dog which is a tragedy. But its biggest crime is the football itself. A few things: (1) The images of a dog chasing down children in a fun middle school football game is terrifying. Immediately parents would be like “nope, this is actually too far. It was funny for a second, but dogs actually can’t play middle school football”. (2) A kid destroys Air Bud in the championship game and injures him! Insane, but well within the rules set out in the Air Bud universe. (3) The first touchdown by Air Bud should have resulted in a too many men on the field penalty since he comes off of the sideline to catch the ball. Completely takes you out of the movie. What? Did they line up with ten men to start? Get out of here! I didn’t even get to the announcers, and the bumbling Abbott and Costello-esque fat-and-skinny refs which appear solely for the Championship game. I’m going to go future on the Sklognalogy because I think the closest film I can think of is Little Giants, a staple of childhood viewing for us, but not yet a BMT film. Ludicrous, actually the same B-story (her father dating, and a bonus am-I-not-feminine-enough? tom-boy story … huh, kid’s films are kind of all the same), and the rags-to-riches tale of a down-and-out sports team winning the championship against all odds.
The BMT (Legacy / StreetCreditReport.com) – This could have a solid legacy if it revived our trust in bad kids films. And even then it is probably the most entertainingly bad kids film I’ve seen in quite a while. So it has that going for it. No street cred, but that isn’t a surprise. I was somewhat stunned to see Leonard Maltin even have a review for the film. And people like Ebert tend to pick on the “big boys” of the year like Armageddon. Both films this week with no cred, for shame.
I’ll leave the bring a friend analysis for the Clan of the Cave Bear recap. And, no, I did not feel the need to rewatch Air Bud, which I have seen. So no homework to report. Cheerios,