Air Bud was a movie about a dog who became the star of a youth basketball team. This much you probably knew. And perhaps you also knew that the success of this first film, which was very loosely based on a true story, led to a series of straight-to-DVD sequels that eventually brought this story about a hoops-loving dog to its logical conclusion, with Air Bud thwarting a diamond heist in the process of winning a beach volleyball tournament. I am not making this up.
What you might not know, however, if you don’t have young children or spend a lot of time reading about Air Bud on Wikipedia, is that there is also a straight-to-DVD Air Bud spinoff series called Air Buddies, which is about the five puppies he had with a dog named Molly he met in the soccer-themed movie, Air Bud: World Pup. Here is where things get weird: Air Bud’s puppies can talk. All of them. Despite the fact that neither Air Bud nor Molly could talk. They just, like, can. And in the third movie in this new franchise — and again, I feel like I need to stress here that I am not making any of this up — Air Bud’s puppies go to outer space.
“Okay,” you say, as your brain attempts to process a movie franchise that started with a normal dog who could put a basketball into a hoop by bonking it off his nose and evolved into one where the same dog’s possibly mutant children are hurtling through the cosmos. “But where can the series possibly go from there?”
I’m glad you asked. Allow me to tell you about a little movie called Santa Buddies.
Santa Buddies Is A Movie About Air Bud’s Puppies Saving Christmas
This will all require some setting up. Try to stay with me here.
1) The screencap up there is Santa Claus (George Wendt) and Santa Paws (voiced by Tom Bosley) — Santa Paws is responsible for delivering presents to dogs, obviously — staring at a giant magic icicle that requires worldwide Christmas spirit to stay frozen despite the fact that it is in a cave at the North Pole. No one show this movie to Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’ll have a fit.
2) Santa Paws has a son named Puppy Paws who spends all day screwing around with the reindeer and playing pranks on the elves, kind of hates living in the North Pole and wants nothing more than to be “a real pup.” This, among other reasons, is why the magic icicle is melting.
3) Bet you didn’t expect to get decidedly less-than-subtle global warming references — “Christmas is ruined if the North Pole melts” — in the children’s movie about talking dogs delivering presents, did you?
4) In an attempt to be normal, Puppy Paws stows away inside the mail truck that travels the world to pick up letters to Santa and hops out in the town the Air Buddies live in, because he saw one of them on the naughty list for eating the Thanksgiving turkey and thought that seemed cool.
5) All of the Air Buddies have distinct, exaggerated personalities. A rundown:
- Budderball – The sports-loving one, who is always seen with a football jersey and eye black on, which conceivably means his owner — a child who lives in a mansion — holds his head in place every morning and smears the eye black on his fur. This is upsetting if you think about it for more than five seconds, Let’s not.
- Buddha – The Buddhist one. Sure.
- Mudbud – The laid back Cali bro who rolls around in dirt all day and says “dude” a lot and whose name sounds a lot like “mudbutt,” which was my junior high baseball coach’s favorite term for diarrhea.
- Rosebud – The girl one, who gets nothing of substance to do in this movie other than put on a pretty outfit and say it looks “fetch.” (Get it?!) Stop trying to make “fetch” happen, Rosebud!
- B-Dawg – The rap-loving one.
6) This happens within moments of Puppy Paws meeting B-Dawg.
7) Another thing that is happening: A very sick child visits the crappy local Santa and hands him a letter to be delivered to the real Santa. All he wants for Christmas is a puppy.
8) Christopher Lloyd plays Stan Cruge, the local dog catcher and sole proprietor of the pound. He is, as you can imagine, evil, which we can tell because the sick boy’s father goes to the pound looking to get a puppy and Christopher Lloyd tries to charge him $300. A little bit later in the movie, after Puppy Paws’ antics get all the Air Buddies in trouble with their respective owners and he runs off after overhearing them talk trash about him behind his back, Christopher Lloyd captures him and locks him up in the pound. While in the pound, Puppy Paws meets Tiny, a small sickly-looking dog who sings him what is easily the saddest song I’ve ever heard. A sample:
9) The Air Buddies, with the help of an elf and an elf dog who have come to town because the magic icicle is basically gone and Santa doesn’t have enough juice to deliver the presents, rescue Puppy Paws from the pound.
10) A note about the Air Buddies: Perhaps you find it odd that these puppies are basically running loose all over town all day long, without much intervention from their owners. I did, too. At least until I remembered the thing about them going to space in the previous film.
All Of Which Brings Us To…
Wait, did I mention the thing about Puppy Paws having a tiny magic Christmas crystal on his collar? Because he does. And did I mention that the Air Buddies have sleigh-pulling experience from their second film, Snow Buddies, in which they travel to Alaska? Because they do. Bingo bango, the Air Buddies are basically reindeer now. B-Dawg is the leader. That’s him up there talking like a yuletide Jesse Pinkman. And they’re bringing Puppy Paws back to the North Pole.
It’s too late. The magic icicle — and it’s dawning on me now how easily I’m throwing this phrase around — is re-freezing, but not fast enough to give the reindeer the strength to carry the full-size sleigh around the world. But who will deliver the presen…
God, I love you B-Dawg. Christmas is saved.
“But wait,” you say. “What about the sick kid and the sad puppy and Christopher Lloyd, who somehow looks exactly the same age today as he did in Back to the Future, which almost made it feel like he should have been the one giving the Air Buddies instructions on how to get a sleigh to fly without the assistance of a full-strength magic icicle?”
Excellent question. Two things happen on this front. It all gets very A Christmas Carol-y. Except replace the three ghosts visiting Scrooge in a dream with one talking elf dog from the North Pole visiting Christopher Lloyd in a dog pound while he’s awake. I’ll explain.
First, the aforementioned talking elf dog stays behind after they sprung Puppy Paws from the pound and reminds Cruge about the Christmas spirit and such, leading to a sudden and dramatic change of heart. Second, Cruge finds the sick kid’s letter about wanting a puppy (it had fallen out of the fake Santa’s pile, and the dad brought it to the pound to try to sway Lloyd’s character), which contains lines like “I think my parents wouldn’t worry so much if they knew I had someone to watch out for me,” and he walks through the snow on Christmas Eve to bring Tiny to the little boy while reading the letter in voiceover. And that’s when a movie about Air Bud’s talking, flying puppies made me cry a little. Christmas is full of surprises.