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(1998) (Kevin Zegers, Cynthia Stevenson) (G)

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Children's Drama: A basketball playing dog takes up football and propels a losing middle school team to the championship while helping his owner cope with the changes in his life.
Josh Framm (KEVIN ZEGERS) is a thirteen-year-old kid living in Fernfield, Washington with his mom, Jackie (CYNTHIA STEVENSON). Locally famous for owning Buddy, a basketball playing golden retriever, Josh has other things on his mind when his mom starts dating again.

Unhappy that she's seeing Patrick Sullivan (GREGORY HARRISON), the new veterinarian in town, and egged on by his best friend, Tom (SHAYN SOLBERG), Josh reluctantly joins the football team to avoid seeing his mom frolicking with Patrick.

Despite naturally having a good arm, Josh knows or cares little about football, and his team, the Fernfield Timberwolves, has such a dismal track record that the coach, Mr. Fanelli (ROBERT COSTANZO), is about to be let go if he doesn't produce a winning season.

Fortunately, when Josh is called off the bench to be the first-string quarterback, Buddy quickly joins in the game and demonstrates that he's as talented on the field as he is on the court. Soon the Timberwolves begin winning again, and Josh and Buddy become big stars.

Even so, complications set in when a pair of Russian circus wranglers, Natalya (NORA DUNN) and her dimwitted partner, Popov (PERRY ANZILOTTI), spot Buddy on the news and believe he'd make the perfect main attraction for their show. As they make their move to "dognap" the pooch, Josh must also deal with his resentment toward Patrick whom he knows will never replace his father.

If they liked the original "Air Bud," they most likely will want to see this sequel.
For not containing material to warrant a higher rating.
  • KEVIN ZEGERS plays a thirteen-year-old boy who isn't happy that his mom is dating again (after his father's death a few years earlier) and consequently isn't very nice or friendly to her new boyfriend. He eventually decides to run away from home, but after his coach gives him an inspiration bit of advice, he comes around and everything is good once again.
  • CYNTHIA STEVENSON plays Josh's mom who decides its time to start dating again.
  • GREGORY HARRISON plays the new veterinarian in town who's as good with people as he is pets.
  • NORA DUNN and PERRY ANZILOTTI play two bumbling Russian circus wranglers who set out to kidnap Buddy.
  • ROBERT COSTANZO plays the always eating, but compassionate coach of the football team who helps Josh out of his doldrums.


    OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
    As pure -- but certainly not perfect -- a sequel as there can be, "Air Bud: Golden Receiver" is essentially a retreading of the original film with only a few new elements thrown in. About as predictable as they come -- much like its predecessor -- the film does manage to easily and efficiently accomplish its goal of entertaining kids with decent family material. Although the picture suffers from a lack of originality, it still manages to come off as a harmless, lightweight diversion that should please most kids and some of their parents.

    Conforming to the "How To Make A Sequel" formula/rule, the film brings forward many elements from the first picture. Josh is still affected by the loss of his father, but sports -- and a wise, but sympathetic coach -- get him out of his funk. The athletic pooch character obviously returns -- this time with a penchant for the pigskin over basketball -- and some villainous characters appear set on using the canine for their own good. Consequently Buddy is "dognaped" just before the big game and, well, does all of this sound familiar?

    Of course kids love repetition (thus the worn out videotapes of their favorite Disney movies, etc...) as well as silly sight gags and this film offers plenty of both to keep the little ones from squirming in their seats. Thus, there are shots of Buddy doing all sorts of tricks and stunts, and his goofy appearance wearing a football helmet, shoulder pads and a jersey, as well as doing pushups and rolling on the ground "celebrating" touchdowns will definitely engage the target audience.

    Things don't fare quite as well for the adults in the audience, but the proceedings are certainly easy enough to sit through (but only once). Director Richard Martin and screenwriters Paul Tamasy and Aaron Mendelsohn (both of whom wrote the original "Air Bud") have obviously focused more on the kids than the adults -- and rightly so -- but at least try to inject a little humor aimed at the parents.

    Most notable is a scene where Tim Conway and Dick Martin (the father of this film's director, and known best for his involvement in TV's "Laugh In") appear as the announcers for the big game. Unfortunately, their material is only slightly amusing at best, and clearly isn't as funny as one would imagine it (and they) should have been.

    Then we have the standard issue, buffoon villains who are used here only as a harmless plot complication. As played by Nora Dunn (TV's "Saturday Night Live") and Perry Anzilotti ("Bean"), these Russian misfits are seemingly molded after the old Boris and Natasha cartoon characters. Like Conway and Martin, however, their material is rather lame and oddly enough they conspicuously disappear for a long time during the movie (showing up near the end just to inject the predictable complication).

    The performances from the main cast are enjoyable and likeable, but nothing special enough to draw attention to them. Kevin Zegers returns from the original film, and Cynthia Stevenson ("Home For the Holidays") takes over as Josh's mom, while Gregory Harrison (TV's "Trapper John M.D.) is likeable, but about as bland as all of the other performers. That's not to say that any of them poorly perform, it's just that everyone comes off like the good neighbors next door -- it's pleasant being with them, but they're not that exciting or noteworthy.

    That's been left to the canine star -- or stars since six golden retrievers play the part -- and "Buddy" gets to show off the physical prowess evidenced in the first film. Probably unbeknownst to most audiences, however, the original "Air Bud" (the main one of three who appeared in the original) has since passed on to the great fire hydrant in the sky. Fortunately to human eyes, his breed pretty much looks the same from one dog to the next and the replacement(s) can't be noticed.

    While the filmmakers obviously had to introduce a new sport for the canine to master -- and the press kit notes that soccer is likely to be the sport of choice should there be another film in this series -- I personally didn't find the football antics as amazing as the original's ability to bounce a basketball with his nose and have it go through a hoop. More akin to catching a frisbee, such scenes are okay, but lack the fun and originality evident in the original.

    Despite the film's very predictable nature and the fact that it only offers a slight variation from the original movie's plot, it still comes off as a fluffy, lightweight piece of celluloid that should easily entertain the kids and not bore their parents to death. Certainly not a clever or highly imaginative film, it nonetheless succeeds at its goal, and for that we give "Air Bud: Golden Receiver" a 5.5 out of 10.

    Probably one of the more tame G-rated films we've seen (compared to many animated flicks that often contain scary scenes), there's nearly nothing to object to in this picture. The boy is upset that his mom is dating again (a few years after his father's death that is briefly touched on) and he has some bad attitudes/reactions toward her and her new boyfriend. In one scene he decides to run away from home, but is talked out of it by his coach.

    As in most kids' films, some villains are present, but these are of the standard cartoon-like, buffoon variety. Surprisingly, they don't have a great deal of screen time, and are pretty much harmless (but do provide the few slapstick/pratfall moments that occur in the film). One scene involves a bloody and gooey concoction of "fish guts" being poured onto the two and elicited many "gross" remarks from parents and kids alike). Beyond that, there's nearly nothing else that most parents will find objectionable.

  • None.
  • We see a skunk spray Natalya in the face (and see the clear spray).
  • A chimpanzee unleashes a barrelful (and we mean a lot) of "fish guts" onto the Russian wranglers, and the bloody red, gooey, and somewhat gross looking mixture covers the two.
  • Josh has some of both toward his mom for starting to date again and toward Patrick for (in the boy's eyes) wanting to replace his father.
  • Natalya and Popov (comically) have both for wanting to illegally nab Buddy and add him to their collection of other stolen animals.
  • Tom and Josh quickly rifle through Patrick's desk and belongings looking for evidence that he might have other girlfriends (although Josh does mention that he doesn't feel right about doing this).
  • Although they're portrayed as bumbling boobs, the "sinister" actions of Natalya and Popov to kidnap Buddy may be slightly unsettling to very young kids (such as when they come after and eventually capture him with a net).
  • Likewise, very young kids may be nervous that Buddy is hurt after an opposing team piles on top of him, and when he appears to be injured after a large player tackles him (but he's okay).
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Idiot," "Geez," "We're gonna kick some butt today" and "Imbecile."
  • Some kids may imitate Buddy (and the players in the movie) who celebrate scoring touchdowns by lying on their backs and wiggling around on the ground (like a dog does).
  • Although they don't come from a human, we do hear Buddy belch a few times after eating (which elicited laughs from the kids).
  • A teammate of Josh's repeatedly bangs his own head against a locker door (to psyche himself up for a game).
  • Upset about his mom dating Patrick, Josh decides to run away from home in the middle of the night (but his coach finds him at the train station, gives him some advice, and the boy returns home).
  • None.
  • A few scenes have just a minor bit of tense or suspenseful music in them (often done in a playful way).
  • None.
  • 1 use of "Oh God" is heard.
  • None.
  • None.
  • We briefly see a newspaper clipping that shows that Josh's father (a test pilot) was killed (also mentioned in the first film), and he's now upset that his mother is dating again. Believing that the next man in her life will replace his deceased father, Josh is occasionally upset with his mom and her date(s).
  • Jackie is upset and worried when Josh runs away from home (but he returns after his coach has a talk with him).
  • Accepting a single parent's desire to start dating again (and that the new person in their life isn't meant to replace an absent or deceased parent).
  • The message that the movie states of being able to accomplish most anything as long as you believe in what you're doing.
  • Running away from home.
  • A chimp hits Natalya on the head with a skateboard.
  • The film has several slapstick/pratfall moments such as when Josh overthrows a football that accidentally hits Natalya and Popov, sending them careening down a hill and into a pond. In other scenes, Tom runs into the goalpost and is knocked silly, Popov falls back and lands sitting down on a porcupine, and Natalya hits her head on a metal birdcage).
  • During the football games some players are hit or tackled quite hard by opposing players, and in one, a whole team jumps on Buddy (although he's managed to get out), and in another, a player lands on Buddy with all of his weight (but the pooch is okay after a brief moment).
  • A woman lightly hits Natalya and Popov with a broom after they get stuck in her fence.
  • Natalya hits Popov with a dead fish.

  • Reviewed August 8, 1998

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