Direct to DVD doesn't have to be bad. It usually is, but sometimes the odd sequel will have been picked up by a creative director or writer who adds some witty or clever elements. Otherwise, it's just a pile o' dung with a recognizable name or set of characters. Case in point: Air Buddies.
The Air Bud movie franchise is based on the premise that, if your kids suck at sports, you should begin looking at your dog as a way to live out your shattered dreams of athletic glory. In five previous movies, the golden retriever Bud helped win basketball, football, baseball, soccer and volleyball games in what must be the most pathetic youth athletic leagues in history. But Bud wasn't only the king of the playing field, he also got busy with a neighbor dog and is the father of five "adorable" puppies. Each of the five puppies has a stereotypical personality trait from being dirty (MudBud) to being a wigger (B-Dawg.)
Moving away from the typical Air Bud sports related story, this direct to DVD feature simply rips off the key plot elements of the far superior Disney animated feature One Hundred and One Dalmatians. In fact, the pups run through a drive-in where the movie is playing on the big screen, as if the filmmakers are saying "yeah, we're ripping off a better movie, what are you going to do about it?" Bud and his misses are dog-knapped and the Buddies attempt to both avoid the Horace and Jasper copy-cats themselves and rescue their folks.
Although I don't think this is the case in the other films, in this one, the dogs speak. Unfortunately, instead of just letting the audience hear the voices, the dogs are given animated mouths. This tactic almost never works and certainly doesn't help that the dialogue put into the dogs mouth is patronizing to children and insulting to their parent's intelligence.
This is not a hidden gem which despite its meager source material is pulled off with a certain amount of wit. It's a bad movie that would only appeal to a very young child who isn't familiar with the movie it is ripping off. Don't spend any money on this one; save the cash for a copy of the 1961 animated classic this film wants to be.
The extras on this DVD are so meager, it's unclear why the bothered to put any on at all. This was a flick that deserved to air one time on the Disney Channel and then disappear for a few years. The lack of legitimate extras is another example of the low-quality of this product.
A music video for Jordan Pruitt performing the old Sister Sledge song "We Are Family" is probably the most substantial item. Pruitt, like most Disney Channel musical offerings has a nice enough voice but the song backing is a boring synthetic beat and she really doesn't have the vocal chops to make anyone forget the original. Her debut album comes with a free tube of lip gloss, which shows you the target market.
"Train Your Dog to be Star" is about 3 minutes with the dog trainers from the movie teaching some very basic training tips. Nothing that would actually allow you to train a dog to do anything but you do get a few backstage shots of the puppies. "Puppy Profiles" has two or three scenes featuring the most stereotypical comments by each of the puppies and their "likes and dislikes" listed Playboy fashion.
Finally, there is a four minute "Hollywood Backstage Pass with Air Buddies." The two young hosts of the Disney Channel's "Mike's Super-Short Show," which is used to promote Disney movies, interview the five puppies. It's really awful, but true to the name, it's super-short.
If someone is interested enough to buy this movie, my review and the lack of extras on the disc will likely have almost no influence. But, if you are wavering, I really encourage you to buy the much better One Hundred and One Dalmatians or even Homeward Bound, and not to waste it on this garbage.
Reviewed By: Edward Perkis