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Featured DVD Review: Air Bud: Golden Receiver

January 28th, 2010

Air Bud: Golden Receiver - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon

In 1997 a movie about a dog that could play basketball, Air Bud, was release. And despite costing an estimated $3 million to make, it earned more than $20 million at the box office to become a surprise hit. Not one to pass up an opportunity to cash in, the studio quickly released a sequel, Air Bud: Golden Receiver, just one year later; however, the film wasn't the financial success that the first one was and from then on the franchise went direct-to-DVD. (It is still going on in that format. In fact, I've reviewed the last several of them.) I reviewed Air Bud when it came out on DVD and thought it was pretty good for a kids movie. All I want from this film is for it to be pretty good compared to the first. Nothing more. Can it live up to those standards?

Josh Framm (Kevin Zegers) is still trying to fit in at the start of the eighth grade when his best friend, Tom (Shayn Solberg) convinces him to try out for the football team, you know, to meet girls. The team is awful, but, during a game, Buddy gets onto the field and instantly proves he's just as good at football as he is at basketball. However, there's trouble in town as two Russian circus owners are looking for talent, and by looking for talent I mean they are kidnapping animals to bring back to Russia to perform. And once they see Buddy on the news, they know they have their next star. The final thread running through the film is the romance between Josh's mom, Jackie, and the town's new veterinarian, Patrick Sullivan. Will Buddy help the team win? Will the dognappers get him first? Will love bloom? How will Josh deal with that?

So how is this movie?

Let me put it to you this way... it is practically a remake of the first film, but it is a little weaker in practically every aspect. First of all, it doesn't have the same originality, obviously. It is also a little less believable. Okay, a lot less believable. In the first movie, we know that in real life Buddy was just an average dog that could do all of the tricks we see in the movie. But here it is clear that they deflate the football to allow Buddy to carry it. And this time around it's four specially trained Buddies, as the original dog passed away from cancer. So it lacks the same sense of wonder as well. Furthermore, the comic relief from the two Russian dognappers is little more than cheap slapstick. There are some emotionally touching scenes, including several featuring Robert Costanzo as Coach Fanelli. (You might not recognize the name, but you will instantly recognize his face.) But again, they are not as strong as similar scenes were in the first movie.

What made Air Bud a good kids movies doesn't shine as brightly in Air Bud: Golden Receiver and there are too many flaws for it to be satisfying. Perhaps it is not as bad as its Tomatometer score would indicate, but I would still stick with the original.

The Special Edition comes with two extras, one on the DVD and one physical. There is a six-minute "retrospective" on the career of Air Bud hosted by the Buddies, which is a bit redundant and unless you are a fan of the Buddies franchise, it is safely skippable. Also, the DVD comes with a sports whistle with Air Bud on it. That's not enough to truly earn the Special Edition label.

The Verdict

If you hated the original Air Bud, then stay far, far away from Air Bud: Golden Receiver, as the two films are too similar. If you loved the original Air Bud, then stick with the original, because this film pales in comparison. Add in a Special Edition DVD that isn't special enough, and this DVD is safely skippable for most people.

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