Air Bud is a 1997 American-Canadian sports comedy film directed by Charles Martin Smith. It sparked the franchise centered on the real-life dog Air Buddy, a cross-bred Golden Retriever, who shoots basketball hoops and appears as Buddy. The film was financially successful, grossing $4 million in its opening weekend and totaling $27.8 million in its run against an estimated $3 million budget.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Charles Martin Smith|
|Produced by||Robert Vince|
|Written by||Paul Tamasy|
|Based on||Air Buddy by|
|Music by||Brahm Wenger|
|Edited by||Alison Grace|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures Distribution (United States)|
Warner Bros. (International)
|August 1, 1997|
The film open with Norm Snively, an alcoholic and bumbling clown, driving to a child's birthday party with his golden retriever to perform a show. After the dog accidentally causes havoc at the party, Snively angrily takes him to a dog pound, but on the way, the kennel falls out of his truck, rendering the dog homeless. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Josh Framm has relocated with his mother Jackie and two-year-old sister Andrea from Virginia to Fernfield, Washington. Due to heartbreak over the recent death of his father, a pilot who died in a plane crash during a test flight due to fuel shortage, Josh is too shy to make any friends or to try out for his middle school's basketball team. However, he accepts an offer from Coach Joe Barker to become the basketball team's manager. Josh practices basketball by himself in a makeshift court that he sets up in an abandoned allotment, where he meets the dog and names him Buddy. He soon discovers that Buddy has the uncanny ability to play basketball, and decides to let Buddy come home with him. Jackie agrees to let him keep Buddy until Christmas and she plans to send him to the pound if his rightful owner is not located; however, she sees how loyal Buddy is and how much Josh loves him, so on Christmas, Jackie lets Josh keep Buddy as a present.
Following Christmas, Josh finds a tryout invitation in his locker and further realizes Buddy's talent when he discovers that he can actually shoot a hoop. These facts together prompt Josh to try out, and he gets a place on the team. At his first game, he befriends teammate Tom Stewart, but earns the disdain of star player Larry Willingham. Meanwhile, Buddy leaves the backyard, goes to the school and shows up while the game is underway. He runs into the court, disrupting the game and causing mayhem, but the audience loves him after he scores a basket.
Buddy is later caught by Josh after the game, and shortly afterwards, the dog witnesses Coach Barker abusing Tom by violently pelting him with basketballs in an attempt to make him catch better. He then leads Josh, Jackie, and the school principal, Ms. Pepper, to the scene, and Barker is fired and replaced by the school's kind-hearted engineer, former NBA player Arthur Chaney at Josh's suggestion. As the new basketball coach, Chaney starts implementing changes in the team, including benching Larry during a game for constant ball-hogging. Angered by Chaney's decision, Buck Willingham, Larry's overbearing father, forces Larry to leave the team. Buddy becomes the mascot of the school's basketball team and begins appearing in their halftime shows. After the Timberwolves lose one game, the team has subsequent success and qualifies for the State Final.
Just before the championship game, Snively appears after seeing Buddy on television. Hoping to profit out of Buddy's newfound fame, he forces Jackie to hand over Buddy, using papers which prove that he is Buddy's legal owner. Realizing they do not have a choice, Jackie forces Josh to give Buddy back to Snively, but regrets doing so after seeing her son depressed and withdrawn. Suspecting that Snively might be abusing the dog, Josh decides to rescue Buddy; he sneaks into Snively's backyard and finds Buddy chained up and abused again. Snively catches Josh escaping with Buddy, and pursues them in his dilapidated clown truck, but the truck's brakes and steering fail, sending Snively crashing into a lake; he survives, however, and promises that he will reclaim Buddy. Josh then decides to set Buddy free in the forest to find a new home. Initially, his team is losing at the next championship to the opposing team, which Larry turns out to have joined. Then Buddy returns for a joyful reunion for Josh and the team. When it is discovered that there is no rule that a dog cannot play basketball, Buddy joins the roster and leads the team to a come from behind championship victory, with Josh himself scoring the game-winning buzzer beater.
Snively arrives and attempts to sue the Framm family for custody of Buddy, even though his ownership papers were ruined when he crashed into the lake. Upon seeing Buddy, Judge Cranfield is disgusted and initially reluctant to judge a case over a dog, but agrees only under a strict condition that the case be seriously executed. During the trial, Snively begins by lying to the judge to get Buddy back. However, Josh knows his word is false and protests against letting Snively have Buddy. When Cranfield asks him about it, he reveals the abuse that Buddy has suffered; Josh mentions he had witnessed Snively beating him with a newspaper and chaining him, which was why he had to rescue Buddy. Jackie also protests, mentioning that Buddy was much happier with their family and that she too has seen how abusive Snively is. Despite hearing the Framm's protests, and a number of other people protest against Snively, Cranfield does not believe that either one has any real evidence in claiming ownership to Buddy. However, Chaney arrives and suggests that they grant Buddy the right to choose his owner. As a fan of Chaney, Cranfield accepts his proposal and moves the court outside to the front lawn for Buddy to make his choice. After Buddy rips up the rolled-up newspaper that Snively used to abuse him, he chooses Josh as his owner. Cranfield rules in the Framm family's favor as Buddy's owners and declares the case closed. Snively angrily attempts to get Buddy back by force, but some police officers quickly move in and arrest him for animal cruelty, while Josh and the rest of the citizens rejoice and gather around Buddy to welcome him to his new home.
- Air Buddy as Buddy
- Kevin Zegers as Joshua "Josh" Framm
- Wendy Makkena as Jacqueline "Jackie" Framm
- Bill Cobbs as Coach Arthur Chaney
- Michael Jeter as Norman F. "Norm" Snively
- Eric Christmas as Judge Cranfield
- Nicola Cavendish as Ms. Pepper
- Brendan Fletcher as Lawrence "Larry" Willingham
- Norman Browning as Buck Willingham
- Stephen E. Miller as Coach Joseph "Joe" Barker
- Shayn Solberg as Thomas "Tom" Stewart
- Jessibelle Mather and Kati Mather as Andrea Framm
Home video releaseEdit
Air Bud was released to VHS on December 23, 1997, and to DVD on February 3, 1998 (with an open matte aspect ratio). It was released again on March 3, 2009, in a special edition DVD set that presents the film in its original theatrical aspect ratio. The special edition DVD also includes commentary from Buddy and his puppies, as the series had introduced speaking animals by that time. It was released direct-to-video in October 1999 in the UK by Warner Home Video under the Warner Bros. Family Entertainment label.
Sequels and spin-offsEdit
The film was followed by one theatrical sequel, three direct-to-video sequels and a spin-off film series. In each film, Buddy learns to play a different sport while the spin offs focus on Buddy's children, the Buddies.
- Deming, Mark. "Air Bud". Allmovie. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
- "Air Bud (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 6, 2018.