A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Russell Madness is another entry in the Air Bud franchise, a series of movies in which adorable talking dogs are endowed with super athleticism. This time around, it's a Jack Russell terrier whose forte is wrestling. Expect plenty of match-related takedowns, airplane spins, atomic drops, and fierce smashes to the mat, as well as shots of dogs peeing and burping. Kids who aren't worried about grown men being thrown, pounded, kicked, and smashed over the head by boards might still be bothered by some scenes in which the dog hero and his monkey accomplice are in danger. Russell is choked, spun and thrown, and slammed, but remains unscathed.
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What's the story?
Russell (voiced by Sean Gianbrone) is a Jack Russell terrier who talks, desperately wants a family, and has some stupendously amazing skills. Unable to find a home because he pees on anyone who thinks about adopting him, the little pooch escapes when the words "dog pound" are uttered in his presence. Lucky for him, he makes his way to an alley behind the derelict old building that was once the famous Ferraro Wrestling Arena. Lucky because the latest generation of Ferraros has just come back to resurrect the family business. Costumes, sets, and equipment all came with the building -- but to everyone's astonishment, the family finds they've also inherited Hunk (voiced by Will Sasso), an elderly monkey who thinks fast and cracks wise. When young Max (a nice performance from Mason Vale Cotton) and Hunk discover Russell's aptitude for wrestling, the Ferraros have their "star." But just as the business is taking off, a greedy, corrupt wrestling mogul tries to muscle his way in. Only Russell and Hunk can save the family farm (in this case, the arena) and keep the family together.
Is it any good?
It has a familiar (and weak) story; substandard, clumsy special effects; and cardboard characters. This franchise entry simply can't live up to the original Air Bud film that engaged so many family filmgoers. But what it can do is make kids laugh. A delightful Russell careening through the air, defeating massive muscle-bound wrestlers in every bout and teaming up with a rascally monkey to defeat the bad guys and save the family business, will be enough for most young viewers. And multiple shots of dogs peeing doesn't hurt either. The movie will momentarily entertain, but it's unlikely to become a family classic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the sport of wrestling as it's conducted in schools and Olympic contests. How is the original sport different from "professional" wrestling? When and how is it the same?
What is meant by "just because you lost the round doesn't mean you've lost the match"? How can this translate to things besides wrestling?
Three ways animals "talk" in movies are: 1) animation, 2) voice over, and 3) mechanical effects. Which do you like best, and why?
- In theaters: February 21, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: March 10, 2015
- Cast: Will Sasso, David Milchard, Mason Vale Cotton
- Director: Robert Vince
- Studio: Air Bud Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Cats, Dogs, and Mice
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some rude humor and sports action
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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