Air Bud

Movie review by
Heather Boerner, Common Sense Media
Air Bud Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Sweet dog tale has some peril and mature themes.
  • PG
  • 1997
  • 98 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 14 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

On the basketball court, teamwork is upheld as a positive virtue by the new coach, in contrast with the old coach's philosophy of winning at all costs. The responsibility and care required to take care of a dog is shown in the film, contrasted by the mistreatment Buddy suffers at the hands of his first owner, who exploits him for economic gain and doesn't give him much love or affection.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Josh is a tween boy who has just moved to a new town and must learn to adapt after the untimely death of his father. Although he's depressed and lacking in confidence early in the film, he learns responsibility and develops confidence as he takes care of Buddy and joins the school basketball team. Arthur Chaney is the new basketball coach for Josh's team; he teaches and actively encourages teamwork, in marked contrast to the previous coach who only wanted to win at any cost.

Violence & Scariness

The lead tween boy is knocked down on the basketball court by a bully. Animal abuse is implied at the hands of Buddy's first owner. A man recklessly drives a truck in pursuit of his dog, crashing into signs and nearly running over two people enjoying a picnic in the park. Early in the film, Buddy falls off the back of a truck while he's in a crate.

Sexy Stuff

"Sucks," "hell." The lead tween boy in the film is nicknamed "Waterboy" by a taunting bully.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The antagonist is shown drinking a beer while talking on the phone near a window that is half-filled with stacked beer cans.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymmooooo January 7, 2019
When I watched this movie, I knew that this movie was perfect for my twins who are about to turn 4, and my son who is 5. It can teach a kid many things, and it... Continue reading
Adult Written bydvdgirl March 16, 2018

not bad.

a good movie for the kids. movie says hell but other than that its cute and emotional but loving.
Kid, 10 years old February 17, 2018

A Great Movie for the family!

This is probaly one of the best movies in the Air Bud series (besides Snow Buddies, Treasure Buddies, and Super Buddies from the Air Buddies series). However,... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old March 15, 2017

Kid all watch review

It says language like h. And other things

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dogs

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate