Air Bud 
DVD Sports
Written by Abbie Bernstein   
Wednesday, 04 February 1998

Air Bud

Walt Disney Home Video
MPAA rating: G
starring: Michael Jeter, Kevin Zegers, Wendy Makkena, Eric Christmas, Bill Cobbs, Buddy the dog
release year: 1997
film rating: Three stars
sound/picture: Two and a half stars
reviewed by: Abbie Bernstein

Question: doesn't putting out a full-frame DVD for a film that was originally shot with a widescreen aspect ratio defeat half the purpose of having the movie on DVD in the first place? If you can get past this and you like animals, 'Air Bud' turns out to be a perfectly decent boy-and-his-dog movie. It's sweet and even borderline plausible, a lot closer to an updated version of 'Lassie' than its far-fetched premise might suggest.

Buddy is a golden retriever, who escapes from a cruel owner and finds refuge with young Josh, whose mom has just moved the family to a new town following the death of Josh's dad. Buddy turns out to have a talent for playing basketball, which is soon capitalized on by Josh's school team.

Although it has numerous scenes of Rube Goldberg-like slapstick, 'Air Bud' focuses mainly on the bond between child and dog. Kids and even grownups who like animal movies will find the relationship pretty affecting. Director Charles Martin Smith starred as an actor in 'Never Cry Wolf' and demonstrates that he knows a thing or two about how to work with canines here, mustering up a sense of awe about the whole concept of human/animal interaction. Without preaching, 'Air Bud' actually urges us to think about how extraordinary it is that a human can make his wishes known to a non-human and, more, that the non-human should care enough to cooperate. It helps that Buddy is not made to seem unduly like a hairy member of our own species; apart from his ball-bouncing abilities, he behaves like any other domestic canine.

The sound is pleasant if unspectacular, with an especially nice mix of unobtrusive scoring and ambient sound in Chapter 5. The use of saturated color throughout is quite effective, giving 'Air Bud' a look that is almost classic Technicolor. For particularly good examples of dog training (a real dog, not an animatronic, is always shown when Buddy is playing ball), check out Chapters 8 and 10.

The plot of 'Air Bud' is unarguably derivative and contrived, but the emotions it showcases are authentic--anyone who has ever delightedly observed new behavior in a pet will be able to relate to Josh's euphoric pride in his dog. On the other hand, if you don't like animals, this will not be your cup of movie kibble.

more details
sound format:
Dolby Surround
special features: Original Theatrical Trailer, Chapter Search
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 27-inch Toshiba

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