Reviewed by: Dale Mason
Starring: Kevin Zegers (Josh Framm), Buddy (golden retriever), Wendy Makkena (Josh’s mother), Bill Cobbs (janitor/former NY Knick), Michael Jeter (villain/clown) / Director: Charles Martin Smith / Released by: Disney Pictures
At the time of this review, the Disney corporation is reeling from a growing boycott of their movies, amusement parks, stores, toys, cable TV channel, cruise line, etc. To their surprise, it’s not just Christians who are withholding their hard earned cash. Millions from a variety of faiths and various secular organizations have joined the boycott, frustrated by the degraded Disney of CEO Michael Eisner. The greenback-clutching throng say that they are no longer willing to fund this entertainment giant’s increasing glorification of homosexuality, profanity, unmarried sex, spiritism and bloody violence.
But wait! To Disney’s credit, the story of “Air Bud” stands as a good example of the type of movie that families expect from their former friend. Here you will find the very character traits that parents worldwide long to see reinforced on the movie screens and television sets of their neighborhoods and homes. Humility, self-sacrifice, honor, family love, and more. Though not perfect, “Air Bud” is a movie worthy of the support of all who embrace the values which this story supports.
In this live-action family comedy, set near the picturesque mountain ranges of the northwestern United States, twelve-year-old Josh Framm, his widowed mother and little sister have moved. A new house in a new city. It’s time to “get on with life” a year after the tragic death of Josh’s father, a test pilot.
Josh was close to his dad and the loss is still painful, especially as he struggles to fit in at his new school. A bit shy, he is an unknown new kid in a sometimes unfriendly environment. Fortunately, the mother/son relationship is good, and young Josh finds a true-blue friend in the form of a stray dog, Buddy.
After accepting the position of “manager” (sweaty towel washer) of the school basketball team, Josh soon discovers an overgrown basketball court hidden behind a dilapidated old country church. It is here that he also discovers and befriends a dog with an unknown past, and an amazing talent.
This film was actually written specifically to capitalize on the talent of the K-9 co-star. In one of late night TV’s most popular recurring comedy spoofs (David Letterman’s “Dumb Pet Tricks”) “Buddy” the golden retriever was discovered. This dog can shoot and score with basketballs! Because it won’t take too much to ruin the formula story of this kid-pleasing movie, I won’t go into the plot. But I will commend the writers, and Disney itself, for avoiding any allusion to sex or violence. They took a chance by writing the attractive widow/mother as a caring single mom devoted to her two children, not juggling some illicit romance on the side.
Yes, the script does take some zany turns, but the youngsters who are the intended audience won’t even realize that much of what befalls the villain (a dog-abusing clown) is impossible. Just eat your popcorn, sip your soda, and enjoy the smiles on your kids' faces.
Please note that our “Moral Rating” is a 3½, not a 5.0. Marred by the inclusion of unresolved “situation ethics” (the philosophy that says it’s okay to steal or commit some other sin if doing so accomplishes a “greater good”) and a few curse words (“hell” is mumbled 3 times, plus “God” and “Oh my God” are used 1x each as exclamations), “Air Bud” is not perfect, but it is still a film that most ages can enjoy.
If you’ve been longing for more movies to which you can take your children, see this one. Take your kids, take your neighbor’s kids, take the grandparents… go see it. After all, strong support of good movies and consistent refusal to attend the morally reprehensible ones is the best way to assure that those who run the entertainment industry will have the incentive necessary to continue to invest in family-friendly features.
Boycotting movies like “Air Bud” is, in this reviewer’s opinion, akin to shooting yourself in the foot.
Year of Release—1997
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