Urban Cinefile
"Then I'd go to bed and lie there thinking, now what are they going to do. And I can't tell you how exciting that actually is, to be able to invent characters "  -Nick Cave, on writing The Proposition
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Recovering from his father’s untimely death, 12 year old Josh Framm (Kevin Zegers) moves with his mother (Wendy Makkena) to the sleepy town of Fernfield, Washington. As the new kid on the block, Josh has no friends and is too shy to try out for the school basketball team. However, when practicing on an abandoned court, he befriends a runaway golden retriever named Buddy, who appears to be like a canine Michael Jordan. Josh and Buddy make the school team, thanks to the school's amoral coach (Stephen E. Miller) who will do anything to make his team win. Buddy’s on-court antics cause a media frenzy. But during one game, the coach goes too far and gets fired. It's Josh who suggest that the school janitor, who happens to be an ex-star player for the New York Knicks (Bill Cobbs), become their next coach. Then Buddy’s former owner, a nasty clown called Norm Snively (Michael Jeter) comes along with a scheme to cash in on the dog’s celebrity, just as they are rallying the town’s school team to the state basketball finals.

"When a film distributor fails to screen a film for the media, one suspects there's a valid reason for that decision. However, in the case of Air Bud, that decision is both mystifying and absurd. Apart from the fact that the film received positive reviews when released in the US last year, good family films come along all too rarely, and they're not the easiest to market. It's a pity that this gentle and amusing film will largely go ignored, because there are no space ships, or sinking ships, or forgettable special effects. No, there's none of that, but a well-written script and a sense of old-fashioned humanity. Exquisitely shot on location in Canada and featuring some wonderful performances by its fresh cast, Air Bud is a delightful story of loss, friendship and acceptance. It could have been a silly farce about a basketball-playing dog, but director Charles Martin Smith manages to rise above conventional cliché, presenting us with a sentimental and funny account of a young boy's growth following the death of his father. At the same time, it's a loot of fun, featuring a remarkable dog who does, in fact, know how to play basketball (or did: sadly, he died not long after filming). The basketball game sequences are imaginatively mounted and clever, and the film doesn't attempt to insult the intelligence of its intended audiences. While some cynical critics will either ignore or dismiss the film, others will realise that in age where family cinema is almost a forgotten art, this energetic and charming movie fills an important niche. It's a rare delight."
Paul Fischer

"As high-concept pictures go, Air Bud has the promising, if limited, come-on of a basketball-playing pooch. While it’s true he drools rather than dribbles, golden retriever Buddy has uncanny accuracy at popping a ball into the hoop with his snout. While it’s true he drools rather than dribbles, golden retriever Buddy has uncanny accuracy at popping a ball into the hoop with his snout. Thankfully, the filmmakers don’t overplay this ‘stupid dog trick’ and focus on some enduring, as well as creaky, family values… There is no question that Paul Tamasy and Aaron Mendelsohn’s script is anchored in cliché. One can see every plot turn coming like Lawrence’s camel on the distant horizon. So the fun of the piece is in having one’s expectations fulfilled, while the agony - for anyone with a rudimentary movie education - is watching the syrupy sentimentality spill over and coat the frame… Certainly director Charles Martin Smith provides the story with a lot of heart. …"
Leonard Klady, Variety

"Are there ever movies you just hate the idea of going to see?'' Yes, I say, there are--but sometimes I'm surprised….I had seen the trailer, and knew it was about a dog who could play basketball. I was not impatient to see this movie. I began to have stirrings of hope in the opening scenes, which involved an obnoxious and possibly drunken clown making a fool of himself at a children's party. His act was called Clown and a Hound,' and the dog seemed smarter and nicer than its master, and probably smelled better. On the highway, the dog's cage bounces out of the clown's pickup, and through a series of adventures the dog makes friends with the young hero of the movie, Josh (Kevin Zegers)…. There are predictable crises: Will Snively the Clown (Michael Jeter) come looking for his dog? Will Josh be promoted from manager to player? Will the team's mean star and his overzealous dad spoil the fun? The movie touches those bases, but with freshness and energy. And the climactic scenes are not only absurd and goofy but also enormously entertaining. By the end of the film I was quietly amazed: Not only could Buddy play basketball, but I actually cared how the game turned out… The dog, by the way, wears its own little basketball shoes. Don't let your dog see the movie, or it'll want some."
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Email this article


Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0


CAST: Michael Jeter, Kevin Zegers, Wendy Makkena, Bill Cobbs, Eric Christmas, Brendan Fletcher, Norman Browning, Jay Brazeau, Stephen E. Miller, Nicola Cavendish, Shayn Solberg

DIRECTOR: Charles Martin Smith

PRODUCER: Robert Vince, William Vince

SCRIPT: Paul Tamasy, Aaron Mendelsohn (based on the character created by Kevin DiCicco)


EDITOR: Alison Grace

MUSIC: Brahm Wenger


RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes



© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2021