Yesterday, I decided that I’d devote this week’s installments of 73 Sports Movies in 73 Days to watching and possibly celebrating the entire Air Bud series, as there were five films (not counting the Air Buddies spin-off franchise) and five days in a work week, and I took College Algebra three times, so it works out pretty well. What I’ve discovered thus far is that not having been a kid when the first Air Bud was released and not being a child now (at least not in physical form) has made it difficult for me to truly appreciate these goofy children’s films.
Because as I did with Air Bud, I spent the better part of 1998’s Air Bud: Golden Receiver wondering why nobody is even remotely curious as to how this dog developed these amazing athletic abilities. And this time, Air Bud shows that he can even hang with the professional athletes, while also revealing the inherent security flaws of NBA arenas in the 1990s.
“That ain’t no Golden Retriever… that’s a Golden Receiver. – Robert Costanzo, AKA Coach Fanelli, AKA Sgt. Vito Lorenzo from Die Hard 2, AKA Joseph Tribbiani, Sr.
The Furry, Stinky, Sometimes Poop-Eating Plot
Golden Receiver picks up a year after Air Bud left off, with Josh and friends taking on the high-paced world of the 8th grade. As his suave friend Tommy puts it, “You know what the best thing about the 8th grade is? The girls have turned into women.” Important plot correction: No, they haven’t. They’re still 8th graders and they’re still just girls. This sort of Hollywood portrayal of anything different is why kids today are getting pregnant at an average age of 4 months (citation needed).
Anyway, Tommy thinks that the football team is where the prime lady action is at, because “women dig football players,” but Josh is content playing hoops and hanging with his bro dog, Bud. Speaking of hanging with his dog, it’s time for a vet trip, and that’s where Josh meets Dr. Sullivan for the first time. This is important because Josh’s mom is eventually going to start having intercourse with him on a regular basis. It’s also important to note that Mrs. Framm is played by a different actress. According to my research, when the actresses of mother roles change in films, there is a much higher chance of the teenage son to act out. I believe this is the Carlton Banks theorem.
Meanwhile, there’s a Russian circus touring America, and owners Natalya and Popov (also the name of the cheapest and most disgusting well vodka in existence) are on the prowl for any talented animals that they can steal and add to their stable. I appreciate that even in 1998, Hollywood wasn’t afraid to remind us that Russians were evil and Americans were good. In fact, you parents should remind your children daily that Russians are untrustworthy and want us all to share the wealth and dress in olive green and taupe. Also, it’s adorable if you make your child’s first word, “WOLVERINNNNNNNNNNNES!”
Obviously, the Russians want to get their commie hands on Buddy, because he’s a star and can shoot basketballs and whatnot, but Josh is more distracted by the fact that his mom is dating. Josh doesn’t like this one bit, because he misses his dad and he doesn’t want some other dude coming in and pretending like he’s his dad, even though it means extra Christmas presents. When will kids in movies learn, gosh dang it?
So here’s mom’s first date, Herb, a real nerdy douchebooger who is allergic to Buddy.
Poor Mrs. Framm, can’t a lady just get some rod already? Here’s her next date, macho lawyer bro:
But Mrs. Framm later wondered to Buddy, naturally, that maybe she wasn’t ready to fall in love and that’s when Buddy spotted Dr. Sullivan at his boat and – BOOM! – they’re going to GET. IT. ON. This upsets Josh more than anything, because he doesn’t like Dr. Sullivan ever since he was able to give Buddy a checkup with no problems. Damn you, stupid airplane problems! Why did you have to take Mr. Framm’s life in a test flight gone awry?
(Also, it’s worth noting that Josh leaves Buddy outside at night. Between that and just letting him go into a field in the first Air Bud film, I’m starting to wish that the judge had granted Norman Snively custody after all.)
While Josh was asleep, Buddy snuck into the garage and got the football that Dr. Sullivan gave to him as a gift. That leads to Josh and Tommy throwing the ol’ pigskin around at the park and guess what happens next… that’s right! Buddy’s a football superstar. Alas, those no good Russians are on the prowl and trying to steal Buddy from Josh, but his lack of football skill causes him to overthrow the ball, hit Popov in the head and knock him and Natalya into the lake, where a pug laughs at them. In fact, everyone laugh at them!
Haha, take THAT, comrades!
Josh finally decides to play football after Coach Fanelli offers him the backup spot behind Cole Powers, the best quarterback in the league, but he soon discovers that football is hard. He also doesn’t bother taking his disgusting, filthy pads off before he goes home, so he tracks mud and whatever other nonsense into his house, which just further proves that he has no regard for his hard-working mother’s time. Hell, he didn’t even bother telling his mom that he joined the team! Get it together, Josh. You jerk. Also, the Russians are still stealing animals because the newspaper tells us that.
Josh also takes Buddy to Dr. Sullivan even though nothing is wrong with the dog, so he and Tommy can spy on his mom’s new boyfriend. Does this kid even realize how expensive vet bills are? At this point, I’d really like it if someone could step in and intervene. This kid is on a crazy train to a bad place. He may even end up smoking the pot and injecting cat piss into his face like the cool kids do.
Back on the football field, Cole Powers suffers a season- and possibly life-ending injury (I didn’t bother following up on that) so Josh finally gets his chance to shine. The only problem is that he really sucks at football because he’s never played before. If I’m the GM of his middle school football team, I’d probably fire Coach Fanelli for not having a more capable backup on the staff. I mean, Jeff Garcia was probably only a phone call away.
But who’s that coming to the rescue? It’s AIR BUD!!! Of course, he wasn’t actually playing and he interrupted the game and broke up a pass to a wide open receiver that could have helped Josh’s team, but by this point I think that Josh sort of deserves it for all of his whiny behavior and for interfering with his mom’s happiness.
This is also where the film goes south for me. Eventually, Coach Fanelli lets Bud join the team as his “Golden Receiver” because, as we learned in the first Air Bud, “AIN’T NO RULE!!!” But basketball was cool and fine because nobody was trying to tackle a dog. Hell, before Bud even joined the team and just broke up that one pass, those kids were trying to tackle and hurt a dog that didn’t even have pads on.
And eventually, after Josh predictably comes to terms with Dr. Sullivan giving it to his mom and thwarts the Russian circus owners’ attempts to steal Buddy (they’re also eventually captured by Russian officials and presumably killed or placed in a labor camp in the heart of Siberia for the rest of their short lives), Josh leads his team to the big game, in which he needs Buddy’s special talents to get the big win. But Buddy gets injured because people keep tackling him and intentionally trying to hurt a dog.
I’m not positive, but I think there’s a serious metaphor here between a dog playing football and the concussion issues of NFL players. I can only hope that Roger Goodell and the NFL’s physicians watch Air Bud: Golden Receiver and really think about their incredible dilemma from more than just a financial stanspoint.
A Couple Sort-of-Fun Facts About Air Bud: Golden Receiver
Well, I guess that you could say these are facts about Air Bud in general, but I forgot to include them yesterday and I’m a sucker for relevance.
- The lead human character, Josh Framm, was played by actor Kevin Zeger, who amazingly grew up (presumably) meth- and heroin-free to have himself a nice little career as an adult, too. His upcoming projects include the young adult supernatural novel adaptation of The Mortal Instruments, that looks like another Twilight knockoff but people swear is nothing like Twilight, and The Colony, which also stars adult film star Montana Fishburne’s father, Laurence.
- The dog Buddy, while listed as the star of Air Bud: Golden Receiver, was actually replaced for the sequels, because he passed away in his sleep in 1998. In fact, after the original Air Bud was filmed, Buddy became ill and had one of his legs amputated because of synovial cell sarcoma. But of course most of us millenials and whatever the generation before the millenials was called will remember Buddy for his greatest role as Comet on Full House.
- Buddy was actually a stray dog found by a man named Kevin di Cicco, who taught Buddy how to play multiple sports, before landing him appearances on David Letterman’s “Stupid Pet Tricks.”
- Buddy was also nominated for a Kids’ Choice Award in 1998, but he did not win. From this day forward, I will refer to this as the greatest entertainment awards snub of all-time.