Disney // 1998 // 90 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // February 11th, 2010
Just dog it!
"That there is no golden retriever...that there is a Golden Receiver!" -- Coach Fanelli
In the original Air Bud, the title mutt unexpectedly took his owner's basketball team to victory. Now, Josh Framm (Kevin Zegers, Transamerica) has started his freshman year; looking to become quarterback of the school's football team, the Timberwolves. The team hasn't had a winning season for years and, consequently, the school board is threatening to fire Coach Fanelli (Robert Costanzo, Die Hard 2), a good-hearted man who values having fun over winning games. When Buddy catches a ball and makes a touchdown, however, he becomes the Timberwolves' secret weapon. Unfortunately, Buddy has also become the target of a pair of Russian immigrants who abduct animals for their traveling animal circus.
Once upon a time, an enjoyable little Disney flick called Air Bud was released. The gimmick of having a dog play basketball was absurd but cute. It also proved to be financially lucrative, planting the seeds for a Buddy franchise. Thus, faster than you could say "canine cash," Disney would unleash Air Bud: Golden Receiver upon the masses. It made a mere fraction of what the original did in terms of box office dollars.
Still, this setback didn't stop the studio from continuing the series in the direct-to-DVD arena. They had Buddy play other sports like soccer (World Pup), baseball (Seventh Inning Fetch), and even beach volleyball (Air Bud Spikes Back)! The mayhem has since continued with Buddy's rambunctious offspring, who have gone sledding, space traveling and even worked for Santa Claus. Sheesh!
So where does Air Bud: Golden Receiver rate in the franchise? I've only seen the first and second films, so commenting on the rest wouldn't be fair. All I can say is Golden Receiver is basically a tired retread of the first film, with Buddy once again avoiding a villain wanting to exploit him and then going on to win the big game. The differences are he's now playing football while also dodging a pair of villains.
The first problem with Golden Receiver is the lazy continuity. For starters, Buddy's basketball stardom is only barely touched upon. There's also no explanation for Josh's decision to throw pigskins instead of shooting hoops. Furthermore, it's impossible to not notice the replacement actress in the role of Josh's mother, resulting in a different character altogether.
As for Buddy, his acceptance on the school's basketball team was incredible, but enough for us to swallow. Here, it's completely inconceivable he would be allowed to play football, as the ASPCA would be on the Framm family like a rat on a Cheeto. One tackle could seriously injure our beloved Buddy, and the writers actually allow it to happen. Sure, it may occur off-screen, but it's still wrong in every way.
Ultimately, Golden Receiver is too predictable and generic for its own good. The pathetic villains are hopelessly one-dimensional, rendering their whole subplot superfluous. Josh's conflict this time around -- dealing with his mother dating -- is yawn-inducing. And let us not forget the primary cliché present in all sports movies, where the underdog team goes on to win the state championship with the help of a talented new player. Even with all of Buddy's charms, Golden Receiver isn't audience-pleasing in the slightest.
As unnecessary as it is, I will concede to Golden Receiver's harmless nature. Kids will be amused at the numerous slapstick gags, even if they do feel like leftovers from the studio films of the 1970s. Cleanliness earns the film its G-rating, as there's a noticeable absence of farts and toilet humor. And Zegers remains a likable protagonist, even if his lines are perfunctory.
The one actor who avoids ordinariness is Costanzo, a character actor who adds spice to every role he's given no matter how small. If you remember, he was the a-hole cop who gives John McClane a ticket in Die Hard 2. He also had a hilarious bit in City Slickers as a slimy father who shows off his butt-crack and brags about having "super-human strength." Here, he plays the football coach with tenderness and honesty, transforming an otherwise stock character into a warm human being.
The original DVD release of Air Bud: Golden Receiver was in full-frame with 2.0 Surround and barebones aside from a production featurette. Disney's new special edition is a marginal upgrade, but nothing special. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen print has a fair amount of natural grain, with no major flaws present. Black levels are reasonably deep, and colors are bright as can be. The 5.1 surround track is pretty good, with proper attention paid to Brahm Wenger's feel-good score.
As far as extras, the original featurette has unfortunately been discarded. Instead, we have a 6-minute Buddies Sports Channel special, where Buddy's offspring gives a play-by-play commentary of the championship game. It's as lame as it sounds. And yet, it's probably a joy compared to the Buddies commentary which was included on the special edition release of Air Bud.
Oh, Disney also throws in a necklace with an orange-colored sports whistle on it. Thanks a lot!
The dog that played Buddy in the original tragically died shortly after filming was completed and Golden Receiver is dedicated to his memory. I wouldn't be surprised if he rolled over in his grave, since this so-called sequel is full of fleas.
The kick is no good!
Review content copyright © 2010 Christopher Kulik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Sports Whistle