Did you know there have been five Air Bud movies? Five. Two theatrical releases and three more direct-to-video sequels, with each film featuring Buddy playing a different sport (basketball, football, soccer, baseball, and volleyball, respectively). And that’s not even including the Air Buddies spinoffs, which feature Air Bud’s puppies doing things like celebrating various holidays and going to space, and are not about sports at all even though they could put all the puppies in little ice skates and make one called Air Buddies: Paw-er Play TOMORROW. Oh, also, the puppies can talk even though Air Bud couldn’t because whatever screw you you’re watching the ninth Air Bud movie so why don’t you settle down, Scorsese. It’s called artistic license. Geez.
It appears I have gotten off topic. Here’s what I’m getting at: How good would a dog actually be at the sports depicted in the five original movies? And can I formulate hard opinions on this even though I have only seen 20 minutes of the first one? Short answers: Not very, and of course. So please, join me below as I rank the Air Bud films from least to most plausible.
This is the stupidest thing I have ever done.
Title: Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch
Relevant excerpt from Wikipedia: “Andrea, attempting to fit in with her Jr. High classmates, decides to join the baseball team and along the way discovers that Buddy also has the uncanny ability to play baseball.”
Analysis: Let’s be honest here: Dogs can’t play baseball. I mean, how would they even hold the bat? Terribly, that’s how. And they can’t throw, either. What position is a dog supposed to play if it can’t even throw a baseball? First base? Sure, that seems like a neat idea, until some kid lays down a drag bunt and the third baseman comes up firing and ends up bashing all of the dog’s teeth out because it tried to catch a fastball with its mouth because OH YEAH DOGS ALSO DON’T KNOW HOW TO USE BASEBALL GLOVES. Now you’ve got a toothless dog bleeding all over the infield and your pitcher is crying. Great job, coach.
The only possible use a baseball team could get out of a dog player is as a pinch runner. Dogs are pretty fast, and maybe you could train one to steal bases. But even then I bet he’d get picked off a lot and kill a bunch of rallies with his reckless baserunning shenanigans. Not worth it, I say.
Title: Air Bud: World Pup
Relevant excerpt from Wikipedia: “Next, it is discovered that Buddy also has the uncanny ability to play soccer.”
Analysis: Nope. Outside of possibly being able to redirect an occasional cross toward the goal with its nose, a dog would be useless on a soccer field. Have you ever seen a dog play with a soccer ball? It just runs around trying to bite it for a while then goes back to sleep. Not a very helpful skillset.
Also, there is the issue of whether a dog’s front paws are feet or hands in the eyes of the soccer rulebook. It’s not like they’d be super useful either way, but if they’re hands and your team loses possession every time the dog excitedly runs up to the ball and tries to mount it, you’ll lose every game by 20 goals.
Title: Air Bud
Relevant excerpt from Wikipedia: “Josh soon learns that Buddy has the uncanny ability to play basketball.”
Analysis: I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt because it was actually based on the true story of a dog who could bonk a basketball into the hoop with its head, and that is cool. If I were going nitpick its plausibility I would point out how silly it would be to have a player on the court who can’t dribble or rebound, and whose only useful on-court skill is the ability to finish an alley-oop like 20% of the time by smashing his face into the ball. But again, I am not going to do that.
NOTE: One of my favorite things about the Air Bud movies is that there are conceivably real human children on the bench (or who were left off the team altogether) while a dog is running around on the field or court. I find that hilarious. I like to imagine these children explaining it to an overbearing father.
Father: How did tryouts go today?
Son: [mumbles] I didn’t make the team.
Father: What? Speak up.
Son: I didn’t make the team.
Father: Did the dog make the team?
Wife: Honey, it’s not importa-
Father: No. I wanna know. And he’s gonna tell me. Look at me. Did. The. Dog. Make. The. Team?
Son: [mumbles] Yes.
Father: [slams fork down] GODDAMMIT.
Title: Air Bud: Golden Receiver
Relevant excerpt from Wikipedia: “It all starts when Sullivan innocently tosses Josh’s basketball-savvy dog, Buddy, a football one day, and he discovers that Buddy also has an uncanny ability to play the sport of football.”
Analysis: I don’t think a dog could really catch a football in its mouth that some Baby Elway just hucked like 20 yards down the field, and it’s kind of bullsh-t that he’s not wearing a face mask (especially in the era of player safety), but this movie gets a pass anyway because kids are, generally speaking, tiny fraidy cats, and I think if you lined up a big mean dog at linebacker and trained him to HATE footballs he would be devastating in a Pop Warner league. Until he got carried away and bit a kid, and the police made you put him down. That would be sad.
We should probably rename this new version Old Yeller: Outside Linebarker.
Title: Air Bud: Spikes Back
Relevant excerpt from Wikipedia: “In Disney’s fifth installment to the franchise, Air Bud finds that he also has the uncanny ability to play volleyball.”
Analysis: Okay, dogs can’t play volleyball and everyone knows it, but I am ranking this movie number one anyway because AIR BUD SOLVES A DIAMOND HEIST BY PLAYING BEACH VOLLEYBALL and that is probably the single greatest plot of any film, book, or theatrical production in history. And according to Wikipedia that parrot in the trailer is his crime solving sidekick. Think about that. Jewel thieves got busted by a beach bum dog and trusty parrot pal. That’s even more embarrassing than a dog taking your spot on a sports team.