Originally posted on Zug.com, now Media Shower, on 12/11/2012.
Being the good Dad I am, I have to make damn sure that what my child is watching isn’t harmful, destructive or, worst of all, horrible programming. Now my boy, like most children, loves puppies. And the idea of a puppy that can talk is even better. Right?
Turns out, no. A talking puppy is actually quite horrific, if the popular children’s series Air Buddies is to believed. I got my hands on five of these damned flicks, and sat through every last minute. Turns out the only thing worse than five talking puppies, is five talking puppies who have absolutely nothing to say.
After dramatic intro music that this film does not deserve, we get an extended recap of Air Bud, the dog who could play all sports. Why? He wasn’t some epic Greek hero. The dog had puppies; happens a lot, shockingly.
So after six Air Bud movies where the animals didn’t talk, they suddenly can. There’s a throw-away line about how each species speaks its own language, but somehow every animal can fluently speak and understand all animal languages. Except people. People sure are dumb.
Despite being “family comedies,” jokes are scarce in this things. For the most part, it’s just puppies saying things. Terrible, annoying, cloying things that turned me into more of a cat person with each line.
And virtually everything these dogs spew reinforces their one sole personality trait. Budderball loves food. Buddha is Zen. Mudbud likes mud. Rosebud’s a girl (sadly, this passes for personality in Hollywood.) And B-Dawg is every poser white boy you’ve ever met and immediately hated.
The jokes, if you can call them that, are painfully unoriginal sight gags and tired cliches with dog references thrown in. The best gag involves a drunk puppy. One of the Buddies falls into a vat of fermenting wine, and it goes to his head. I was shocked. After an hour of utter bullshit, they throw us a DRUNKEN PUPPY.
And what of the plot? Well, it’s … there. I guess. A horrible rich guy wants to appease his horrible son, and hires a band of thieves to bring him Air Bud. The thieves used to capture the dog are typical bumbling morons, who would pee in the Fryalator at McDonald’s because pee looks like oil, so nobody’d notice.
They can’t even get a vanity license plate right. They probably wanted WINNERRR, but the lack of second N gave us WINERRRR. If that was intended to showcase how dumb they are, then thumbs-up. But more likely, the filmmakers messed up and were just too busy being undeservingly rich to change it.
Everything works out in the end of course; it’s Disney, after all. I’m probably the one around who ISN’T happy. How could I be? I just watched a family comedy with almost no jokes. It’s cloying, the dogs are furry little stereotypes, and its forced Power Of Friendship moral fails to resonate next to Budderball making his 22487209748923th reference to food.
So that’s Air Buddies, a solid 3.5 out of 10. That’s pretty bad; it’s also as good as this series is gonna get.
The dogs infiltrate an ice cream truck and get shipped off to Alaska, all because Budderball’s hungry again. Yes, that’s the set-up.
There’s no real plot here, so they just pile on the puppy quirks. You get so many food/slang/zen/mud/girl references, you’ll quickly begin to hate all five things. And if you hate food, you starve. Then you die. Therefore, this movie could well be guilty of murder.
Oh wait, IT ALREADY IS. Notice how it doesn’t say “no animals were harmed?” That’s because they were. At least two puppies, after days of treading in real snow, amazingly caught cold-related diseases and died. Many more survived, but suffered sickness during filming. So, if my son truly insists on watching this crap, I figure I can whip out that little factoid, and he’ll immediately start scrambling for the Power Off button. I win!
So maybe that’s why they piled on the extra-cuteness. They weren’t covering up an awful story; they were covering up death! The adow’able pups, plus the lead boy’s shampoo-commercial-worthy hairdo, are what Disney wants you to focus on. Not dead dogs.
The boy’s the best part of the film. The film focuses its third act on him striving to achieve goals that his father never could, relegating the Buddies to the background. When the focus switches back to the dogs, everything reverts back to dumb-as-fuck. Clearly, the talking dogs are the worst part of the talking dog movies.
3.0 out of 10. But cheer up, my suffering’s about to get worse.
This one…shit, it doesn’t even try to set up a plot. It’s literally “puppies go to space shuttle, and then they’re in space.” And even 250,000 miles away, they’re still annoying as Hell.
Yes, that is a toy pizza. The film’s budget is so meager, they couldn’t even afford real food. Or did the puppies eat it all between takes? I don’t blame them; exploit the exploiter for all you can.
So are there ANY redeeming qualities here? Well, no dead dogs this time. That’s always good. Plus, there’s a Lazy Foreign Stereotype character, but he’s a GOOD GUY. Social progress, Buddy Movie style!
Never mind. Casual racism, Buddy Movie style! Yes, that’s a Russian astronaut, stranded on a space station that disappeared decades ago, and is magically discovered by NASA when the plot demands it. He gives the puppies’ ship fuel, and the dogs end up on the Moon. For maybe three minutes.
The poster has them on the Moon. The tagline is centered around the Moon, and it’s repeated twice in the film. They then spend almost no time on the damn thing! What, were they afraid the film would get boring on the Moon? News flash: you’re the third badly-CGI’d talking puppy movie in a row. I’m already bored.
Once Everything Works Out ((c) Disney, Inc.,) the dogs return to Earth as world-famous celebrities. I’m fairly certain the next film will quickly forget this.
This one was horrid: 0.5 out of 10. The jokes are actually lamer than usual, and the plot devices and setup are beyond phony. I prefer a bit of realism in my talking dog movies, thank you.
I said realism, dammit! Warlocks, ghosts, and black magic? They’re officially pitching these movies as “here’s a thing, and now that thing has puppies. DEY SO CEWWWWWTE!”
At this point, my brain is attempting to focus on anything it possibly can, to avoid the inevitable dry-rot it’s been threatening since Minute 1 of Film 1. I’m realizing just how weird the Air Buddies universe truly is. They’re obsessed with puppies, moreso than we are. Everything stops when puppies are in danger. When they were stuck in Alaska, a WORLDWIDE APB was sent out for them. The evil warlock needs the souls of five puppies to rule the world, and the entire town comes after him with pitchforks because of this. Maybe puppies are currency.
There’s a running gag where the warlock returns after 75 years of banishment, and he doesn’t understand how Halloween works. Amazingly, this makes sense; trick-or-treating wasn’t massively popular until the ’50s, long after he’d disappeared. It’s like someone their research for once! Could this series actually be turning a corner!?
After the warlock is defeated by replacing his spell book with a Bible (roll with it), we’re treated to the film’s one allotted good joke: a stoner surfer dude uttering, “whoa, I haven’t had an episode like this since that KISS concert in the ’80s.” Hot damn, a drug joke.
So this was an improvement, though not by much: 1.5 out of 10. But am I out of the woods? Hell no! This whole thing has been hard and harrowing and, after four of them, I’m kinda starting to hate dogs.
But, like an epic video game, the final enemy is the most evil, vile, diabolical, and frustratingly challenging foe of them all:
The Search For Santa Paws
Amazingly, this movie manages to multiply the cliches by 10, the predictability by 100, and my vomiting by 10,000. Considering its predecessors, that’s quite the accomplishment.
This would be the villain, a stereotypical Dickens-esque Evil Orphanage Lady. This is used to set up a movie set in 2011. This is cheap and lazy storytelling at its cheapest and laziest.
Also, the Innocent Angel Girl might be the most annoying character I’ve ever seen. The fairy from Ocarina Of Time? Pauly Shore? Caillou? All Daniel-Day Lewis compared to this kid. She’s the whiniest puddle of syrup ever. Much of my time was spent screaming for her to just shut up forever.
Worse, she can’t sing, but keeps doing so. The actress was on America’s Got Talent, and actually made the Top Ten. They should’ve just cast Prince Poppycock then, if that’s their one standard.
And the Buddies? Well, they’re not here. Instead, we get Paws, Santa’s puppy. Also, humans can suddenly understand animals, but only if they believe in Christmas. You Hanukkah and Kwanzaa people? No talking mutts for you! Which would actually make you the luckiest people on Earth.
Jokewise, Santa Paws makes the other Buddy Movies look like The Jerk or Animal House. In 90 minutes, I counted no good jokes. None.
That’s bad enough on its own, but there were only four attempts at a joke. Everything else was total saccharine sweetness and pitiful drama. Even the most heartfelt Christmas special has some comic relief. Not here; if they sought out to create the most unlikable film in history, they pulled it off.
I firmly believe that 98% of Santa Paws was written in 1952, and they never edited it for modern times. It’s the only way a 2011 release could feature evil orphanages, old-timey wooden toys, virtually no minorities, and the phrase “mind your own beeswax, buster.” They just took the script, added one line about the Internet, and sent it off to Marketing.
Oh, and this guy flirts with Orphanage Lady by calling her “Cindy Crawford.” In 2011! They probably added that line in 1993, after decades of not touching the script. But they couldn’t have tapped “hot girls of 2011” into Google Image Search, and inserted something from Page 1?
This film concludes with the most insulting ending possible: the Selfless Sacrifice That Works Out In The End. Paws gives up his magic life crystal, which turned him back into a stuffed animal (just roll with it) so that Santa might live. That’s pretty poignant, giving your life to save your best friend.
So naturally, Santa’s magic tears bring Paws back to life. Because nobody can die here, even honorably. The ultimate horrible movie ends with the ultimate horrible cop-out ending; seems apropos.
Final score: -838,648,249,183,024 out of 10. It’s not only the worst Christmas movie ever, but quite simply the worst movie ever. It’s not even so-bad-it’s-good. It’s so bad, you want to gut everybody involved. When you start to sympathize with the evil orphanage lady who hates children, fun, singing, dogs, and Christmas, then the movie has done the exact opposite of its job.
This doesn’t make the other films any good though: it’s a spectacularly horrible series. If your kids likes cute puppies, this is NOT where they should get their fix. Just take ’em to PetSmart and let them pet the dogs there. They’re just as cute, far less annoying, and only talk if you dropped acid first.