The idea behind the Don’t Watch It, John! series is to find cinema that’s so rotten, so foul, so incredibly fetid that no other human being would dare recommend it to another human being. So why on earth would I watch this stuff? I like to think of myself much like Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men. We live in a world that has horrible movies, and those horrible movies have to be kept from potential viewers. Who’s gonna do it? You? You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That someone watching movies like Air Bud: Golden Receiver (1998), while tragic, probably saves lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You want me on that wall, you need me on that wall, protecting you from the cinematic horrors of the world. Early in September, anxious for college football to arrive, I saw that Air Bud: Golden Receiver was going to air. And then I laughed and figured I could DVR it for the “Don’t Watch It” series.
What is Air Bud: Golden Receiver?
Here’s how Netflix describes it:
Picking up where the original Air Bud left off, Josh is the owner of golden retriever Buddy, who now plays football instead of basketball. Josh reluctantly becomes his school’s new quarterback, and Buddy catches the spirit and joins the team too.
Basically, Disney has a series of movies about a dog named Buddy. Buddy does human things, most often involving sports. Air Bud: Golden Receiver was the second in the series. There have been 12 mostly direct-to-video movies in the series to date and many have expanded to include tons of puppies.
Who stars in this cinematic monstrosity? The biggest star is, of course, Buddy the dog. The actual dog who played Air Bud was a stray found in the Sierra Nevada mountains. He was adopted, trained, and became an acting dog. It’s actually a really neat story. Don’t go to the Wikipedia page, though, because it doesn’t have a happy ending.
The cast is a who’s who of people who could be upstaged by a dog. It includes some guy who starred in a short-lived Logan’s Run TV series, Saturday Night Live alum Nora Dunn, and cameo appearances by Tim Conway and former NFL quarterback Warren Moon.
The Stats: 2,437 users on IMDb have given it an average score of 4.1 out of 10. It has a 6% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with only one positive review out of 17. Predictably, the positive review came from Common Sense Media, a non-profit group that advocates on children’s issues.
The Review: Initially, I DVR’ed this thinking it’d be funny to dump all over it with a bunch of jackass commentary. And… I’m still going to do that. But the caveat is that this movie clearly wasn’t for me. I am not the target market for Disney dog-athlete movies. So I’d like to give it a very brief, honest review before launching into my jackass commentary.
Air Bud: Golden Receiver is harmless entertainment for kids. I could easily see a grade schooler enjoying it, mostly on the strength of some slapstick and, of course, the dog. I think it’s impossible to dislike dogs, and Buddy has plenty of charm. That said, I still wouldn’t want to be the parent or guardian responsible for showing it to a kid. There are lots of other kid-appropriate movies I’d prefer to show them.
Now, onto my jackass observations…
-The movie opens with a shot of the community’s “Welcome to…” sign. It says “Welcome to Fernfield, Where Everything is Possible”. I kind of wanted to vomit.
-Be prepared for some funny-for-the-wrong-reason 90s references right off the bat. There’s a parrot who utters famous 90s movie lines that were obviously timely in 1998. Now, not so much. “BRAAAACK! Show me the money! BRAAAAACK! I’m the king of the world!”
-I love dogs, but I have to admit that Buddy was kind of a dick. He eats everyone else’s food, he breaks out of the house whenever he wants, he breaks in to professional sporting events (twice!), and he doesn’t stay when asked.
-My biggest beef with Air Bud: Golden Receiver is that it’s very unrealistic. When the dog is running with the football in his mouth, you can hear him bark. How?!?! How can a dog bark with a football in his mouth, Air Bud Director Guy?!?!
-The line that made me roll my eyes the hardest came from the football coach- “That ain’t no golden retriever. That there’s a golden receiver!”
-The first four plays I saw the football team run were all the same. They called “B-52” four times in a row. No wonder the school district wants to fire that coach.
-Buddy does a touchdown dance when he scores. You might think that sounds funny or charming or cute or whatever, until you see it. His touchdown dance is exactly what dogs do when they roll around in the yard on piles of their own poop. Admittedly, dogs do look REALLY blissful when they do that, but it loses a lot of charm in the movie when you put two and two together.
-Having seen this film in its entirety, I have now heard enough dog puns to last a lifetime.
-Highlight of the movie: Nora Dunn fencing with a monkey. If it weren’t for that time I got free beer, it’d be the highlight of my year.
-Is there anything more awkward than 90s movie kids getting used to mom’s new boyfriend?
-I wonder if they stapled the helmet to the dog’s head to keep it from falling off, like the mice in Scrooged.
-Fun fact: the kid who starred in the first few Air Bud movies went on to star in MVP: Most Valuable Primate (2000), a movie about a chimp who plays hockey. And before you ask, no- I am not kidding. Apparently, Kevin Zegers is the Sir Laurence Olivier of movies featuring animal co-stars.