“Does he dribble?”
“No, but he might drool a bit.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A family made up of a single mother (dad died in an airplane crash) and her two cute children, moves to a new town where they all try to make a fresh start. One of the children is a shy 12-year-old boy who finds himself having a difficult time making friends at his new school. Fortunately, a stray animal comes into his life and makes a real difference. Just as the animal and boy are really bonding, the animal’s old owner resurfaces and reclaims him. The boy goes into a deep depression; the animal’s owner turns out to be a real jerk; but all is saved in the end as a result of the efforts of both the boy and the animal. All live happily ever after and sequels are assured. That’s pretty much the plot of Air Bud. The family is the Framms; the boy’s name is Josh, and the animal is a golden retriever named Buddy who can play basketball. So far, three sequels have also appeared with Buddy showing off his prowess at football, soccer, and most recently baseball.
Familiarity with this sort of tale can breed contempt, but if you’re in the right mood, anyone can enjoy Air Bud, for the film manages to avoid being too cute and it has a winner in Buddy, who surely is one of the more likable beasts in film (although I do admit I’m partial to golden retrievers and so, easily impressed by any film that will feature them). But it goes further than that. Josh is winningly played by Kevin Zegers while Buddy’s former owner (with a great name — Norm Snively) is played with a zestful nastiness by Michael Jeter. The basketball scenes are well-staged and Buddy’s ability to sink baskets is a sight to behold indeed. If you’re looking for good family entertainment, Air Bud doesn’t disappoint, no matter what the age of the viewer.
Seville’s recent DVD release (Canada only) pretty much duplicates Disney’s previous Region 1 release. We get a 1.33:1 full frame transfer which, if you can get over the lack of respect shown by failing to present the director’s original 1.85:1 composition, is a pretty fine looking effort. The picture is sharp and clear with bright and accurate colour. Edge enhancement is not an issue. Two sound tracks are provided — a French one in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo and an English one in 2.0 stereo surround. The latter is a perfectly competent presentation of both dialogue and the film’s pleasant musical theme, with even some noticeable use of the surrounds at times. Extras are limited to a gallery of 19 stills (not on Disney’s previous DVD release of the film), the original theatrical trailer, and a trailer for the most recent sequel — Air Bud IV.