One of the things that I love most about any movie is the ability to avoid nonsensical back stories. For example, I’m one of the few people, I think, that really wants to see a Punisher movie done properly, and I think that it’s totally plausible for the film to simply focus on a vigilante who runs around a major city, blowing bad guys to smithereens just because he feels like it. I don’t need to know that his family was killed by this or that villain, so long as he has a giant skull on his chest and some huge machine guns.
But in the case of a classic film like Air Bud, I’m afraid that I need to know more. That’s why I’ve not only selected Air Bud as my film for today’s installment of 73 Sports Movies in 73 Days, but I’m devoting this entire week to the Air Bud franchise. From the 1997 original to the fifth installment, Air Bud: Spikes Back (2003), I am going to spend this week investigating the world’s greatest animal athlete and why Buddy was allowed to break sports’ long-time canine barrier.
(I will not be watching the Air Buddies spin-offs, because puppies talking with little kids’ voices scares the crap out of me.)
The Plot. Who’s A Good Widdle Plot? You Are! Yes You Are!
Normal Snively is a gigantic human piece of feces with an adorable Golden Retriever that he dresses as a clown as part of his act for children. But Snively is a colossal dickhead who can’t properly manage his dog, so he throws it in a cage and calls the pound, where it will undoubtedly be sent off to live on the same farm that my beloved English Bulldog Bruno is currently vacationing at. Except along the way, Buddy’s cage falls out of the back of Snively’s truck, leaving the adorable dog for dead.
Josh Framm sees a clown dog sitting on the side of the road but doesn’t say anything to his mom, presumably because he’s a little coward who doesn’t even deserve a dog. Who doesn’t say, “Hey, look at that clown dog!” and stop to rescue it? Nine out of 10 people would stop to save the clown dog, and the tenth person would be a cat wearing a trench coat.
Anyway, Buddy eventually finds Josh playing basketball and that’s when the child discovers that this wet, filthy pooch is actually an amazing basketball player. How does he find out? Because he’s playing with a basketball and Buddy is fixated on the ball. One thing leads to another – a coaching change brought about by child abuse charges not to be ignored – and Buddy joins Josh’s Timberwolves team for the big game.
But Isn’t There A Rule That Says Dogs Can’t Play Basketball?
AIN’T NO RULE!
The Fallback Of The Ol’ Chicken Trope
Coach Arthur Chaney, who is a former New York Knicks player, uses my favorite “easy way out” plot distraction – “What’s the matter, afraid…?” There’s a lesson to be learned here, aspiring screenwriters. Any time you’re trying to explain why a character ends up doing something even though it makes no sense at all, just have the opposing character counter by calling him a chicken and/or questioning his manhood. In this case, the opposing coach wouldn’t dare be seen as a chicken, even if it means pointing out that there’s a dog playing basketball against humans.
The Scene That Was Only Written To Make Children Cry
This scene is absolute nonsense. Who just lets a dog go into the wild to find a new home? Sure, there wasn’t Craigslist just yet, but this was a very talented Golden Retriever. Someone would have taken this dog. Instead, Josh leaves it to die. It bothered me then and it bothers me now.
Rules Are Rules, For Human Or Dog
I would have thrown a fit over Bud’s free throws toward the end of the game. Sure, Coach Chaney would have called me a chicken, but I probably would have been all, “Hey, it’s a f*cking dog playing basketball and he’s committing a clear lane violation, while also not shooting the ball with his own paws.” I guarantee Gregg Popovich would have my back.
The Point Where The Ball Is Dropped
While I like the ending of this film a lot – I would have liked it better with the old “I’ll cut this dog in half” routine, though – and I wish that our legal system would settle all custody cases like this (Tito Ortiz probably agrees), there was a fantastic opportunity here to tell us how such an incredible piece of mangled cat piss vomit like Snively managed to raise and train such an incredible dog.
Because if he really cared about the money and time that he put into Buddy (or Ol’ Blue), he would have put up a better fight than dressing as a clown and threatening the dog with abuse yet again. Instead, we’re left with very little knowledge of where Buddy comes from and how he got his magnificent talent.
My Imperfect Yet Probably Theory
I believe that Buddy is an alien dog that is part of a species that has been studying human behavior for many centuries, and he eventually decided that he wanted to participate in these strange games that man was playing, even if it meant being abandoned by his own race, which in kind left Earth to never return again. This made Buddy the only of his species left in this solar system, which is why Snively, who was actually CIA, would stop at nothing to keep him.
Again, it’s a rough theory, but I’ll keep polishing it as I continue watching the next four films that I’ve never seen before.
Join Us Tomorrow For: Air Bud: Golden Receiver