Air Bud: Golden Receiver
Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
Better than Average
Starring: Kevin Zegers, Gregory Harrison, Cynthia Stevenson, Nora Dunn, Perry Anzilotti, Robert Costanzo / Director: Richard Martin / Distributed by: Walt Disney
The original Air Bud may very well have been a suitable movie for Christian families; it was after all, the only game in town at the time of its 1997 release. Its sequel, however, is clearly formulaic and is completely void of any charm and imagination. I simply cannot imagine any children over 5 or 6 years old enjoying this—not when there’s better, non-condescending material like “Veggie Tales” that at least has characters you care about.
The sequel covers nearly identical material: Josh Framm (KEVIN ZEGERS), still sad about his father’s death, finds a best friend in Buddy, his trusty and loyal golden retriever. For reasons unclear to the audience—either because he wants to impress a junior-high girl we never meet, or because he wants to forget about his Mom’s (CYNTHIA STEVENSON) search for a new husband—Josh tries out for the football team. Buddy, ever trusty and loyal, follows Josh to the field and runs with a football like a frisbee. That’s the gimmick of this movie; the dog’s a quarterback.
Guess what? The gimmick doesn’t work.
Reportedly, the first “Air Bud”, was a true original who really did bob those basketballs into the net. Unbeknownst to the audience, Air Bud died of cancer last year and was replaced by difference four dogs. In other words, there’s a lot of trick photography; and, it’s really dishonest and mean-spirited to present Buddy as something he’s not. That’s lying—and lying to children is especially low.
Take away the dog, and there isn’t much left to this movie. Josh’s Mom attracts the attention of a local veterinarian—gee, how convenient—who just happens to be the same vet Josh takes Buddy to. Parents, please be advised that Josh’s Mom always wears black lipstick, black eyeshadow, and black dresses when going out on dates; also, be advised that there isn’t much of a mother-son relationship. This movie sends a lot of mixed messages to single Christian parents.
And, here’s the trademark of a really bad kid’s movie—if the producers don’t have enough confidence in their story, bring in a couple of bad guys just for laughs. (See “Dennis The Menace” or “Mr. Magoo” for more examples of, “Well, we don’t have a story, but hey, how about these bad guys?”) Parents, take note: animal cruelty is played for amusement by some disposable Boris-and-Natasha type villains (NORA DUNN and PERRY ANZILOTTI), kooky Russians who steal animals for their zoo. At a time when Christian missionaries are bringing the Gospel to the former Soviet Union, it’s really tacky to stereotype Russians as such idiots. It’s not funny.
“Air Bud: Golden Receiver” is rated “G” despite occasional vulgarity and pervasive animal abuse. There is no other violence, profanity, or offensive content. Parents, please don’t let your children “copycat” this movie and throw footballs at the family dog. (And, be forewarned, there’s a scene where football players all pile onto Buddy… a particularly alarming image for a G-rated movie.)
Year of Release—1998