Air Bud is an 1997 American family comedy film that sparked the franchise centered on the real-life dog, Buddy, a Golden Retriever.
| Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
The film opens with an alcoholic abusive clown, Norm Snively and his Golden Retriever Old Blue, doing a show at a child's birthday party. After Old Blue causes trouble at the birthday party and both being tossed out of the house, Norm angrily takes him in a kennel to a dog pound, until the kennel falls out of his truck.
Old Blue is homeless until he meets 12-year-old Josh Framm. After the death of Josh's father (who died in a plane crash during a test flight), he relocates with his mom Jackie and 2-year-old sister Andrea from Virginia to Fernfield, Washington. Due to heartbreak over his father's death, he is too shy to try out for his middle school's basketball team and to make any friends and becomes becomes the basketball team's manager instead.
Josh practices basketball by himself in a makeshift court that he sets up in an abandoned allotment where he first meets Old Blue and renames him Buddy. He soon discovers that Buddy has the uncanny ability to play basketball & decides to let Buddy come home with him.
Jackie agrees to let him keep Buddy until Christmas and she plans to send him to the pound if his rightful owner is not located; however, she sees how much Josh loves Buddy and how loyal he is. When Josh wakes up on Christmas and Buddy is not in his room, he goes downstairs and finds Buddy with a bow secured on his head. She gives Buddy to Josh as a present.
Following Christmas, Josh finds a tryout invitation in his locker, although he does not know how it got there. Puzzled about what to do, he further discovers Buddy's talent when he discovers that Buddy can actually shoot a hoop. These facts together prompt Josh to follow through and try out and he gets a place on the team.
At his first game, Josh befriends teammate Tom Stewart, but earns the disdain of star player and team bully Larry Willingham. Meanwhile, Buddy leaves the backyard, goes to the school and shows up while the game is underway. He runs into the court, disrupts the game, and causes mayhem, but the audience loves him after he scores a basket.
After the game and once Buddy is caught by Josh, Buddy sees Coach Barker abusing Tom by violently pelting him with basketballs in an attempt to make him catch better which leads Josh, Jackie and the school principal Ms. Pepper to the scene. As a result, Coach Barker is fired and replaced by the school's kind-hearted engineer, Arthur Chaney (at Josh's suggestion).
Buddy becomes the mascot of Josh's school's basketball team and begins appearing in their halftime shows. After the Timberwolves lose one game, the team has subsequent success and qualifies for the State Final.
Just before the championship game, Norm appears after seeing Buddy on television. Hoping to profit off Buddy's newfound fame, he forces Jackie to hand over Buddy because he has papers proving that he is Buddy's legal owner. Knowing they do not have a choice, Jackie forces Josh to do the right thing and give Buddy back to Norm.
After feeling withdrawn and depressed, Josh decides to rescue Buddy & sneaks into Norm's backyard where he discovers Buddy chained up. Norm (who is on the phone scheduling performances) initially does not notice Josh in the yard due to a stack of empty beer cans on his windowsill until it falls and Josh is caught in the act.
Josh gets the chain from Buddy and they escape. Norm gets into his dilapidated clown truck and pursues them through a park where Norm scatters a small swing set, a couple's picnic, the sign of Fernfield, and hits a parked car. The pursuit continues on to a parking lot near a lake, during which Norm's truck falls apart and it crashes into the water.
A few minutes after the pursuit, Josh decides to set Buddy free in the forest to find a new home. Initially, his team is losing at the next championship to the opposing team until Buddy shows up. When it is discovered that there is no rule that a dog can't play basketball, Buddy joins the roster to lead the team to a come from behind championship victory.
Norm reappears and tries to sue the Framm family for custody of Buddy despite having a lack of ownership papers. Upon seeing Buddy, Judge Cranfield is disgusted and initially reluctant on a case over a dog, but he only agrees only under a strict condition of the case being executed seriously.
After numerous protests, Arthur arrives and suggests that Buddy chooses his owner. As a fan of Arthur himself, Judge Cranfield accepts his proposal & moves the court outside to the lawn. The rule is for both parties to call Buddy while staying put on their spots, and one single step towards the dog would result in a loss.
During the calling, Norm takes out his roll of newspaper (which he often used as a punishment to hit Buddy) and yells at Buddy. Buddy angrily rushes at Norm, bites him, rips up the newspaper and he runs towards Josh.
Judge Cranfield grants Josh's family legal custody of Buddy while an angry Norm rushes toward Buddy and Josh in a last ditched effort to try to get Buddy to himself, but he is lead away by the police & arrested for animal cruelty while Josh and the rest of the citizens rejoice and gather around Buddy to welcome him home.
- Kevin Zegers as Josh Framm
- Wendy Makkena as Jackie Framm
- Air Buddy as Old Blue\Buddy
- Bill Cobbs as Coach Arthur Cheney
- Michael Jeter as Norman F. "Norm" Snively
- Eric Christmas as Judge Cranfield
- Jonas Fredrico as Julius Aster
- Nicola Cavendish as Ms. Pepper
- Brendan Fletcher as Larry Willingham
- Norman Browning as Buck Willingham
- James Manley as Professor Plum
- Joseph Lester as Father Cunningham
- Stephen E. Miller as Coach Joe Barker
- Shayn Solberg as Tom Stewart
- Jessibelle and Kati Mather as Andrea Framm
"Air Bud" was produced from October 29, 1996 to December 1, 1996 and filmed in British Columbia, Canada. The filming was completed in less than a month.
In 1998 (a year after filming "Air Bud"), Buddy passed away from cancer at the age of 10.
In total, it grossed $23,144,499.
"Air Bud" received mixed reviews and holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 43% based on 21 reviews.
Roger Ebert gave the film a three-star rating and wrote in his review: "And the climactic scenes are not only absurd and goofy but also enormously entertaining. By the end of the film I was quietly amazed: Not only could Buddy play basketball, but I actually cared how the game turned out."
Stephen Holden of The New York Times described it as "so wan and by-the-numbers."
Mick LaSalle from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that the film "doesn't exhaust the novelty of a dog playing basketball. Its best trick is that it actually leaves the viewer wanting more."