AIR BUD: SPECIAL EDITION
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
Michael Jeter as NORM SNIVELY
Kevin Zegers as JOSH FRAMM
Wendy Makkena as JACKIE FRAMM
Bill Cobbs as ARTHUR CHANEY
Eric Christmas as JUDGE CRANFIELD
Buddy the Dog as HIMSELF
Directed by: Charles Martin Smith
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Josh Framm (Kevin Zegers) moves to a new town with his family and has trouble making friends. He tries out for the basketball team, but suffers some social set-backs. Then, he discovers a stray golden retriever he names Buddy who has a knack for playing basketball as well. Buddy helps Josh come out of his shell, but when his original owner – an abusive clown named Norm Snively (Michael Jeter) – comes looking for Buddy, Josh will do anything to keep him safe.
WHAT I LIKED
I remember when this movie initially came out, and it made news simply for the fact that it had a dog playing basketball. The original Buddy had this talent that built from a party trick to a movie franchise. It’s a simple story, basically amounting to a boy and his dog… literally. However, what makes a cliche story a cliche is that it has been done effectively before. The boy-and-his-dog storyline works well in the film and makes a good movie for kids and their families.
I was impressed at how the film managed to balance the story of the boy with the story of the dog. In later films, the humans take a back seat to the dogs. However, at the heart of this movie is Josh’s story, and that makes it a solid film.
Additionally, the message behind the film is wholesome but not crammed down your throat. In one sequence, an abusive basketball coach is replaced with a former NBA legend who teaches the boys to work as a team and to not show off. There’s an air of acceptance throughout the film, but the movie never stops to stand at a pulpit and preach this message. And it’s a relief to watch this in a family film.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Like any original film in a series, “Air Bud” has a distinctly different tone than the current slate of “Air Buddies” films coming to DVD. This isn’t a negative thing, per se. It’s just a different film. It’s less cute and more dramatic. There’s some scenes with Buddy in peril at the hand of Norm Snively, and a few scenes will threaten to break some young viewers’ hearts.
In fact, one of these scenes had my five-year-old in tears… at least until more happier moments came on screen. So be warned of these scenes before you show it to the youngest viewers.
For a DVD labeled “Special Edition,” there’s not a lot to the disc itself. With the exception of the original theatrical trailer, the only other bonus feature on the DVD is a “Dog-U-Commentary,” which is a commentary track by the Buddies. The actors behind the pups are reading from a script, which makes it a little tedious to watch, but it’s a cute idea, and I think kids will get a kick out of it (although I wouldn’t expect them to listen to the commentary through the entire 98-minute running time).
Perhaps what makes this Special Edition special is the collectable sleeve which features the Buddies, and the “Air Bud” dog tags that come packaged with the case. Those are actually pretty cool.
Also, the DVD contains a special mail-in offer to get two plush “Buddies” with the purchase of this DVD and the Disney classic “Oliver & Company.”
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Families and dog fans.