The movie Air Bud is starch with a cast of no name actors, which surprisingly find their claim to fame in this heart wrenching story of a boy and his dog. Josh Framm, a young boy still suffering from the loss of his father, struggles to play basketball on the middle school team. He comes across a stray dog while shooting hoops by himself one day, brings the dog home, and eventually convinces his mom to adopt him. It turns out the dog is an amazing basketball player, better than anyone on the team, and finds his spot starring in the halftime shows. The dog’s previous owner, a nasty clown who used to beat him, sees his all-star dog on TV, and decides to try to profit off of him once again. After taking him back from Josh and his mom explaining his custody, Josh decides to steal him back and set him free to find another owner. Of course, Buddy finds his way back to the championship game only to steal the show once again in a passionate display of emotion only a dog and his owner could exhibit. Snively, the clown, brings Josh and his mom to court over Buddy, where the judge decides to let Buddy decide who his owner should be. Naturally, he decides Josh and the happy ending ensues.
Before watching Air Bud, I was worried about the gameplay that would take place seeing at how low budget it was. It turned out to be a remarkably accurate portrayal of middle school basketball. One could even say that it predicted the recent fiasco that took place at Rutgers University with Coach Rice, as the coach in the film also was fired for berating his players during practice.
Although Kevin Zegers’ performance as Josh was unconvincing at times, Buddy clearly picked up the slack where necessary. The one truly impressive part of this classic child’s film was the relationship between Zegers and Buddy. One speaks about the bond of man and man’s best friend often, but rarely does this love spill over onto the silver screen. Being able to portray human emotion, as well as animal emotion, is what coming to the movies is really about.
Michael Jeter as Snively is arguably his most stylized part to date. His character didn’t have an incredible amount of depth, but that’s what made his part the most frightening. For a second I thought this movie was hinging on horror when the scene transitioned to his dingy home. It looked far more like Steven King’s “It” than what I was anticipating, keeping me on the edge of my seat quite literally hoping that this boy and his best friend would be reunited.
One of the most tear jerking moments I’ve seen on film though came when Zegers’ released Buddy into the wilderness in an attempt to save him from being taken back into Jeter’s custody. Zegers’ tears on screen were as real as mine were off. And then in a moment of suspension of disbelief, Buddy somehow crossed a river, got off an island, and made it to the championship game. In retrospect, this sounds as though it may ruin the film because of how unrealistic it is, but while watching it’s impossible not to believe that miracles could happen.
Though the movie became slightly absurd in the final scenes where Buddy was given the choice of his owner and gave the tiniest lead toward the evil Snively, it was obvious that this part was made to cause suspense, which it most certainly did. Overall, the movie was a fine anecdote of the trials and tribulations that face an adolescent boy and how with the little help from a friend, anything is possible.