Air Bud: Golden Receiver
Most film makers would consider creating a franchise to be the cinematic equivalent of finding the Golden Ticket. With a built in fan base there is no longer a need to spend a lot of time with back story or exposition and concentrate just on further the well established characters. This has been the case all the way back to serialized stories in newspapers and magazines. One of the most successful franchises in the kid’s market revolves around a talented Golden Retriever and eventually his five mischievous puppies. The patriarch of this playful, furry family was known as ‘Air Bud’. Since his first appearance in 1997 the series of movies has been a mainstay in the ever growing world of Disney family entertainment. Even though I have not had a child in residence since about the time of the first flick but whenever I get an opportunity to review one of these movies I find myself having a really enjoyable time. Leave it to Disney to make sure a movie is actually fun for the entire family. Of course Disney is extremely well versed in the use of kids and hyper cute animals of one of their features; they been the leading employer of children and puppies since before most of you were born. I know that the premise of a dog that can play sports better than a person sounds ridiculous and juvenile but in the expert hands here what you wind up with is a delightfully enjoyable fantasy just ideal for a family movie night. So get some popcorn ready and have some fun. This re-release is typical of Disney. The content is about the same as the previous one and there is a ‘collectable’ whistle included to add to the dog tags that was included in the special edition of the first movie.
The screenplay came from Paul Tamasy and Aaron Mendelssohn extending the story of Bud they helped to create with Kevin DiCicco. In a move that is highly unusual for any franchise both Tamsy and Mendelssohn had written the scripts for every movie in the series thus far. This may be rare but it is also ideal. Having the same people involved in the story as it continues affords a much tighter continuity giving the films the right touch of realism to ground it. In the first film in the first film a young boy, Josh Framm (Kevin Zegers) comes across a golden retriever, Buddy, and discovers the dog can play basket ball. It turned out that the dog ran away from the abusive clown who trained him in the sport as part of his act. In this film the issue of ownership had been decided in Kevin’s favor but his life is about to take another strange twist. Kevin, now a teen, is very perturbed when his mother, Jackie (Cynthia Stevenson), begins to date the new veterinarian, Patrick Sullivan (Gregory Harrison). Making the boy’s dislike of the man worse is when he accidently throws out Bud’s basket ball. When Bud demonstrates that he is not a one sport dog when he catches a football with ease. It doesn’t take long before the dog is recruited to play with Kevin’s junior high school football team. The dog’s notoriety rapidly spreads and soon a pair of Russian dognappers, Natalya (Nora Dunn) and Popov (Perry Anzilotti)with plans to make it rich selling him to the Russian circus.
If the story sounds familiar there is good reason; it is basically a slight re-tooling of the previous film. You can get away with this ploy more effectively with a film primarily target to a younger demographic. There is the sword of Damocles still present in the mobsters rather than an irate clown. In each case the emotions invoked are the same for the audience, a sharp demarcation between the heroic boy and his dog and the dastardly villains show want to separate them forever just to make a quick wad of cash. What elevates this movie above so many others in its genre is the inclusion of a purely human theme. A lot of kids watching come from single parent homes and have to deal with their parent getting back into a personal social life. The emanation scope of Kevin’s predicament can now include the relationship between boy and dog as well as mother and so; both known to be exceptionally strong bonds.
Before directing this film Richard Martin split his time between movies and episodic television. He knows how to present an action oriented story as demonstrated by projects like several episodes of ‘Highlander’. His style here is straight forward but that is not to say it is boring or unimaginative. To the contrary the flick moves along at a brisk pace but not so fast that the details are lost. This balances the attention span of the kids with the need for a cohesive tale necessary to keep the grow-ups engaged. In this release the DVD provides excellent video and an audio that provides excellent channel separation.