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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Air Bud, though mostly lighthearted, does show a child dealing with his father's death. It also depicts abuse -- both animal abuse and the physical abuse of a boy by his coach -- although it makes it clear that both are wrong, and both perpetrators are punished. There's a little bit of drinking, as well as language along the lines of "sucks" and "hell." But the value of teamwork is stressed, as is the responsibility and care required to take care of a dog. That said, if you don't have a dog already, be prepared for your kids to want one.
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What's the story?
In AIR BUD, after being abandoned by his comically mean clown owner (Michael Jeter), playful golden retriever Buddy meets Josh (Kevin Zegers), a depressed 12-year-old whose father has just died and whose mother has just relocated the family to a new town. The town holds all sorts of secrets for a curious kid: a basketball court hidden behind overgrown vines and the dilapidated fence of an abandoned church, a basketball legend lurking behind the calm exterior of a school janitor, and, most important, a rare and talented dog who can make baskets. Buddy is talented at a lot of things, but his most important talent is that he draws Josh out of his shell. The two form a fast friendship, and when Buddy makes a basket at one of Josh's games, he becomes the team's mascot. All is well until Buddy's mean owner finds out about Buddy's talent and comes to claim him. Then Josh must decide whether to let Buddy go or try to save him from abuse.
Is it any good?
This movie aims straight for the heart, with its infectious mix of drama, silly villains, impish doggy antics, and adventure. All along, viewers are learning something about responsibility, loyalty, and love. Far from being alienated, having Buddy's love gives Josh a family again. He's happy, his mother is happy, and Josh even gains a mentor and father figure in the form of Coach Arthur Chaney (Bill Cobbs).
Air Bud has it all: a fluffy golden retriever, a basketball final game, a car chase, and mean but comically non-threatening villains. You can see why it spawned a series of videos, and your little one may want to see them all. Be aware that none of the successors is nearly as good.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the proper treatment of pets. Does Josh display responsibility in Air Bud when it comes to Buddy?
How is teamwork shown and promoted as a positive value on the basketball court?
How is this film similar to and different from other dog movies?
What are signs of abuse, and what should you do if you discover them? How would you react if you saw adults doing things wrong?
- In theaters: August 1, 1997
- On DVD or streaming: January 6, 1998
- Cast: Kevin Zegers, Michael Jeter, Wendy Makkena
- Director: Charles Martin Smith
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: brief mild language.
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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