Disney // 2009 // 84 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // February 3rd, 2009
One small step for dog. One giant leap for dogkind.
"Whoa, not the bean burrito!"
Via a series of extraordinarily preposterous circumstances, five golden retriever puppies manage to board an experimental spaceship. The ship is controlled by computers, and it just so happens that the puppies board the ship on the day of the test launch. Five golden retriever puppies are launched into space. Unfortunately, it seems that the ship is not going to have enough fuel to make it all the way back. It looks like the mission is going to need to be aborted, until NASA discovers that an abandoned space station is still inhabited by a Russian cosmonaut (Diedrich Bader, Balls of Fury). The Russian saves the mission by agreeing to fill the ship with gas. Next stop: the moon! Will the puppies be able to survive such a challenging journey?
We begin this film with a serene shot of space, as reverent strings shimmer in the background. Suddenly, the horns begin to swell, and the title of the film appears on the screen: Space Buddies. Alas, it seems that the sci-fi genre has finally been hijacked by sarcastic talking animals. Oh, well. Wait, didn't that just happen in Fly Me to the Moon (featuring flies in space) and Space Chimps (featuring monkeys in space)? There must be something in the zeitgeist. I had no idea that there was such a considerable demand for films about chatty animal astronauts. Anyway, Space Buddies is here to fill that apparent demand. So just how tolerable is this latest straight-to-video addition to the formerly sports-themed Air Bud franchise?
I found the whole thing just a bit insufferable, to be completely honest. A few moments of sweet-natured sentiment provide a small measure of watchability, but Space Buddies is primarily comprised of tiresome gags performed by one-dimensional characters. Butterball loves to eat food, and as such is farting all the time. Buddha is a dog who loves to meditate. Mud-bud loves to roll around in the mud whenever he gets the opportunity to do so. Rosebud loves fashion and is always trying live in style. B-dog is a hip-hop enthusiast who offers phrases like, "For shizzle! What's a-hip-hop-happening, home dawgs?" Finally, we get Sputnik, a Russian dog with a very fake Russian accent. Sputnik refers to himself as a "dogmonaut," as this film continues the ridiculous trend of inserting animal names into human words.
The dialogue is gratingly circular throughout the entire film. By that, I mean that a subject will come up, and each character will say something related to that subject that fits their clichéd personality.
Rosebud: I'm gonna miss Sputnik.
B-Dog: Sputnik is now officially a part of my entourage.
Butterball: I'll never forget that he taught me to eat my vegetables.
Mud-bud: He was a rad comrade!
Buddha: He'll have a space in our hearts forever.
Though the focus is primarily on the dogs, we also spend some time with human beings. Our hero on Earth is a nervous and sweet-natured genius (Bill Fagerbakke, Spongebob Squarepants) who carries a ferret around with him. Predictably, our hero works under the tyrannical grip of the world's biggest jerk. Yes, this jerk runs around shouting things like, "Why is a cappuccino not touching my lips? Don't even speak to me." He's really much worse than that, though. This guy is such a jerk that he is willing to destroy several puppies inside a billion dollar piece of equipment just to get his sweet-natured employee fired (he might have also been motivated by the need to add a crisis to the third act). These NASA people are all rather dim, really. Apparently, they get most of their information about space from various conspiracy websites.
What else? A screenplay that often feels as if it were written by a 5-year-old. An obligatory musical homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, this time with obnoxious characters yapping over Mr. Strauss' contribution. Product placement from the self-promotional folks over at Disney: "This is just like going on the ride at Space Mountain!" An embarrassingly bad comedic performance from Diedrich Bader. At least 100 uses of the word "dawg" from the increasingly obnoxious B-Dog. The original Air Bud is nowhere to be found. Key plot points that depend entirely on Butterball's considerable farting skills ("We need some methane gas right now!"). The whole thing ends with a parade and a ceremony.
The hi-def transfer is pretty solid, as the unrealistically neat and tidy Disney sets are conveyed with warm clarity. The darker scenes aren't as strong as I would have liked, but the daytime sequences look very good. Colors are particularly vibrant throughout, and flesh tones are accurate. However, the 1080p transfer does accentuate the low-budget nature of the special effects, which even young lids will find pretty laughable. The sound is quite well-distributed, with the increasingly earnest original score coming through with exceptional clarity. The action scenes offer a bit of subwoofer action, but overall this feels much more like a comedy audio track than a sci-fi/adventure track. All of the elements are well-balanced throughout. Things are perfectly acceptable in the audiovisual department, but this isn't exactly an ambitious disc.
The most substantial supplement here is "Disneypedia: The Buddies Guide to Space Travel" (13 minutes), a rather typical making-of piece. A couple of features can be enjoyed while you watch the film. "Buddy Facts" is a corny trivia track, while "Buddy Finder" is an interactive scavenger hunt game. Three minutes of bloopers and a music video wrap up the supplements, unless you count the fact that the disc is BD-Live enabled. This disc is definitely geared towards the kiddies from top to bottom.
This one is for diehard fans of the franchise only. Space Buddies is lazy family entertainment that feels uninspired in pretty much every way. It looks decent on Blu-ray, but who cares?
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p Widescreen)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Trivia Track
* Music Video
* Interactive Game
* Official Site
* Behind the Scenes
* Training Camp
* Buddha Interview
* Rosebud Interview
* Spudnick Interview
* Which Buddy are You?
* Activity Sheet