Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Charles Martin Smith|
|Produced by||Robert Vince
|Written by||Paul Tamasy
|Music by||Brahm Wenger|
|Edited by||Alison Grace|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|August 1, 1997|
|Box office||$27.7 million|
Air Bud is a 1997 American family comedy film that sparked the franchise centered on the real-life dog, Buddy, a Golden Retriever. The film was financially successful, grossing $4 million in its opening weekend and totaling $27.7 million in its run, against an estimated $3 million budget.
In addition to an appearance on America's Funniest and Amazing Home Videos and multiple performances on David Letterman's shows, Buddy played the role of Comet on a February 1995 episode of Full House. Buddy's story is told in the 2012 book Go Buddy!
The film opens with an unsuccessful professional clown, Norman F. Snively, and his dog by the name of "Old Blue," doing a show at a birthday party. Due to the dog's causing trouble at a birthday party and both being tossed out of the house, Snively angrily takes him in a kennel to a dog pound, until the kennel falls off. The dog is homeless until he meets a 12-year-old boy, Josh Framm (whom the plot mainly involves around). After the death of his father, who died in a plane crash during a test flight (indicated in the headline of a framed newspaper article briefly read by Josh), Josh moves with his family to Fernfield, Washington. Due to heartbreak over his father's passing, he is too shy to try out for his middle school's basketball team and to make any friends. He instead becomes the basketball team's manager, an absurd offer by coach Joe Barker which he accepts. He practices basketball by himself in a makeshift court that he sets up in a disused allotment, where he first meets the dog, naming him Buddy. Josh soon learns that Buddy has the uncanny ability to play basketball.
Josh's mom, Jackie Framm, initially only agrees to let him keep the dog until Christmas and she plans to send him to the pound if the true owner isn't found; however, she sees how much Josh loves Buddy and how loyal the dog is. When Josh wakes up on Christmas Day and Buddy is not in his room, he goes downstairs and sees Buddy with a bow secured on his head. She gives Buddy to Josh as a present.
Following the Christmas holidays, Josh finds a tryout invitation in his locker, although he does not know how it got there. Puzzled on what to do, he further discovers Buddy's talent when he learns that he can actually shoot a hoop. These facts together prompt Josh to follow through and try out (despite basketball coach Joe Barker's reluctance) and gets a place on the team. At his first game, he befriends teammate Tom (who gives him a lucky orange peel) but earns the dismay of team bully Larry Willingham. Meanwhile, Buddy leaves the backyard, goes to the school and shows up while the game is underway. He runs into the court disrupts the game and causes mayhem, but the audience loves him after he scored a basket. After the game and once the dog is caught by Josh, Buddy finds coach Barker abusing Tom by trying to make him catch better by pelting him with basketballs. He leads Josh, Jackie and the school principal Ms. Pepper (who had just introduced her daughter and Booster Club President Melissa) to the scene. Barker is fired and replaced by the school's engineer, Arthur Chaney, at Josh's suggestion (based on Josh's discoverery of him being a former New York Knicks player). Buddy becomes the mascot of Josh's school's basketball team and begins appearing in their halftime shows. After the Timberwolves lose one game (during which Chaney ejects Larry and he subsequently quits), the team has subsequent success and qualifies for the State Final.
Just before the championship game, Buddy's former owner, Snively, after seeing Buddy on television, tricks Jackie into believing he is the dog's owner. She reluctantly allows Snively to take Buddy away despite Josh's protests. After a period feeling withdrawn and depressed, Josh then decides to rescue Buddy. He sneaks into Snively's backyard, which is muddy and where Buddy is chained up. Snively, who is on the phone scheduling performances, initially can't see Josh due to a stack of empty beer cans on his windowsill until it falls and Josh is caught in the act. Josh gets the chain from Buddy and both escape. Snively gets into his dilapidated clown truck to pursue Josh and Buddy through a public park which Snively scatters a small swing set, a couple's picnic, and the sign of Fernfield. The chase rages on to a parking lot near a lake, during which Snively's truck lands into the water, but the latter doesn't drown, and swears vengeance. A few minutes after the chase, Josh then decides to set Buddy free in the forest to find someone else. Initially, his team is losing at the next championship (which sees Larry on the opposing team) until Buddy shows up. When it is discovered that there is no rule that a dog cannot play basketball, Buddy joins the roster to lead the team to a come from behind championship victory (stemmed from Josh's 3-point basket right at the buzzer).
Snively reappears and attempts to sue the Framm family for custody of Buddy. Upon seeing Buddy, Judge Cranfield is disgusted and initially reluctant on a case over a pet, but agrees only under strict condition of the case being executed "seriously." After numerous protests, Chaney walks in and suggests that Buddy chooses his owner. Due to being a fan of Chaney himself, Cranfield accepts Chaney's proposal, and moves the court outside to the lawn. The rule is for both parties to call the dog while staying put on their spots, and one single step towards the dog would result in a loss. During the calling, Snively takes out his roll of newspaper, which he often used as a punishment to hit Buddy, and shouts at him. Buddy charges at Snively, tearing up the weapon of abuse and runs towards Josh. The judge grants custody of the dog to Josh while Snively, who runs at Buddy and Josh in a last-ditched effort to get the dog back, is dragged away by the police and arrested for animal abuse, while Josh and the rest of the citizens rejoice and gather around Buddy to welcome him back, making Buddy's life happier.
- Air Buddy (credited as "Buddy the dog") as Himself
- Kevin Zegers as Josh Framm
- Michael Jeter as Norman F. "Norm" Snively
- Wendy Makkena as Mrs. Jackie Framm
- Bill Cobbs as Coach Arthur Chaney
- Eric Christmas as Judge Cranfield
- Jonas Fredrico as Julius Aster
- Nicola Cavendish as Principal Pepper
- Brendan Fletcher as Larry Willingham
- Norman Browning as Mr. Buck Willingham
- James Manley as Professor Plum
- Joeseph Lester as Father Cunningham
- Stephen E. Miller as Coach Joe Barker
- Shayn Solberg as Tom Stewart
- Jesebel Mather and Kati Mather as Andrea Framm
- Snazin Smith as Nurse (uncredited)
- Jolene Prystae as angry extra
Home video release
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, featuring commentary from B-Dawg, Budderball, Rosebud, Buddha, Mudbud, Molly, and Buddy himself and presents the film in its Original Theatrical Aspect Ratio.
The film received mixed reviews. It holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 43% based on 21 reviews.
Sequels and spin-offs
The film generated one theater-released sequel and many direct-to-video sequels and a spin-off film series. In each film, Buddy learns to play a different sport.
- Deming, Mark. "Air Bud". Allmovie. Retrieved April 16, 2013.
- Go Buddy! The Air Bud Story, by Kevin di Cicco, Air Bud Publishing Group, 2012.
- Rotten Tomatoes - Air Bud
- Official website
- Air Bud at the Internet Movie Database
- Air Bud at Rotten Tomatoes
- Air Bud at AllMovie