1 item from 1998
Barely a year after Disney's "Air Bud" was released with moderate success, athletic pooch Buddy returns to conquer the gridiron in a formulaic follow-up from Dimension Films.
Played mainly by Rush and Zak, the leaping, four-legged hero is the primary attraction for targeted family audiences in "Air Bud: Golden Receiver", which is dedicated to the memory of the original Buddy.
Despite advancing for a few first downs in the early going, "Golden Receiver" is a see-saw battle with a game plan that includes lame slapstick, junior high school sports, familial discord and winning the championship to save mom's romance and the coach's job. When the focus is on supersmart Buddy foiling the villains or running for a touchdown, the movie delivers bush-league thrills that will appeal best to the 10-and-under crowd.
Director Richard Martin -- son of comedian Dick Martin, who makes a cameo as a befuddled sportscaster with Tim Conway in the finale -- is more concerned with keeping the pace fast than adequately telling the uncomplicated story. The central conflict between lead Josh (Kevin Zegers, reprising his role from the first film) and his single mother (Cynthia Stevenson) over the intrusion of dashing veterinarian Patrick (Gregory Harrison) into their lives is fumbled when it's obvious the two bland adults are made for each other.
Urged on by best friend Tom (Shayn Solberg), sulking Josh decides to play for the Fernfield Timberwolves even though basketball is his first sports love. He bears a grudge against affable, friend-to-all-animals Patrick, who pursues Stevenson's mousy character with all the best intentions.
Desperately needing some genuine tension, the film is unfortunately blitzed on several occasions by two Russian circus kooks (Nora Dunn, Perry Anzilotti) who steal extraordinary animals and pets for their traveling show. Inspired by Boris and Natasha, the cartoonish creeps lose ground every time their play is called, though they succeed in sidelining Buddy the day of the big game.
A little "pooch smarts" and the help of a righteously vengeful chimp save the day, but the piling on of cliches, such as the crowds breezily accepting a dog playing in organized school sports, stifles any hope of a game-winning comeback. Instead, Buddy in his cute shoulder pads and helmet leads the Timberwolves to a last-second triumph, though Josh has to struggle momentarily with his emotions when one of his star teammates is injured.
Warm and gentle overall, with tackle football portrayed as rough-and-tumble fun, "Bud II" is eager-to-please fluff with inspiring themes and values. One is hounded, however, by the almost soulless approach, which is somewhat countered by the spirited performances of Zegers, Stevenson and Robert Costanzo as the beleaguered coach.
AIR BUD: GOLDEN RECEIVER
in association with Dimension Films
A Robert Vince production
Director: Richard Martin
Screenwriters: Paul Tamasy & Aaron Mendelsohn
Producer: Robert Vince
Director of photography: Mike Southon
Production designer: Rex Raglan
Editors: Bruce Lange, Melinda Seabrook
Costume designer: Patricia Hargreaves
Music: Brahm Wenger
Casting: Abra Edelman, Elisa Goodman
Josh Framm: Kevin Zegers
Jackie Framm: Cynthia Stevenson
Patrick Sullivan: Gregory Harrison
Natalya: Nora Dunn
Popov: Perry Anzilotti
Coach Fanelli: Robert Costanzo
Tom: Shayn Solberg
Running time -- 89 minutes
MPAA rating: G
1 item from 1998
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