Ah, the story of A Boy And His Dog, what could be more wonderful? Why, making the dog a sports prodigy, of course!
Twelve-year-old Josh Framm (Kevin Zegers) has to deal with moving to a new town while mourning the death of his father. He meets Buddy, a golden retriever who has managed to escape his abusive owner, an alcoholic clown named Norman Snively (Michael Jeter). The pair become friends and eventually, Josh's mother allows the dog to stay. In the process, Josh discovers that Buddy can play basketball, and the pair end up joining the basketball team, with Buddy as the team's mascot. During a televised game, Snively sees Buddy's talent on the court and manages to get him back from the Framms. Josh, however, manages to rescue the dog, and the pair of them get back to the school, just in time for Buddy to win the game, by means of the Animal Athlete Loophole.
The Air Bud series began in 1997, when Air Bud premiered in theaters. It was an huge success and has spawned four direct sequels and a spin-off franchise in the form of the Air Buddies movies, which focus on Bud's puppies.
The Air Bud films each feature Buddy playing a different sport, and follow roughly the same pattern as the original movie: Buddy shows skill at a sport, he is then kidnapped because of his skill at said sport, his family rescues him, and he returns just in time to win the final match for his team.
The Air Buddies films focus on Buddy's puppies and are more family-oriented. These films have different foci and genres.
Air Bud movies
- Air Bud (1997)
- Air Bud: Golden Receiver (1998)
- Air Bud: World Pup (2000)
- Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch (2002)
- Air Bud: Spikes Back (2003)
This series provides examples of the following tropes:
- The Alcoholic: Norman Snively, whose windowsill is covered with beer cans when Josh tries to untie Buddy from his lawn.
- The Alleged Car: Snively's truck. When he attempts to chase down Josh and Buddy in it, it completely falls apart, causing him to crash into the lake.
- Animal Athlete Loophole: In the originals, he often went on to play with a professional team.
- Animal Talk: Implemented in the Air Buddies movies.
- Artistic License Sports: While there may be no rule specifically stating that a dog can't play, interscholastic leagues do have stringent eligibility requirements, including being a student of sound academic standing.
- Big Bad: Norman Snively from the first movie; he abuses Buddy and creates one of the main conflicts of the film by standing in the way of Josh and Buddy remaining together.
- Big Good: Coach Chaney has shades of this in the first film, as putting Buddy into the final game and having Buddy choose who to stay with are both his ideas. He also puts a basketball tryout invitation in Josh's locker against Coach Barker's wishes.
- Snively is seen in his clown costume at the beginning and end of the first movie, and not at any other point.
- A yellow bird is also the first and last thing we see in the same movie, and also not at any other point.
- Continuity Reboot:
- In World Pup, Buddy and his mate Molly have a set of puppies, who inherit his sports abilities. They receive a Plot-Relevant Age-Up for Seventh Inning Fetch, but are nowhere to be seen in Spikes Back. Then, Air Buddies rolls around, and they're puppies again. It could also a brand new set of puppies; it's never really made clear.
- The movies move from having merely Amplified Animals in the initial continuity to implementing Animal Talk in the Air Buddies series.
- Corpsing: As Snively is apprehended by security guards after the custody hearing for Buddy has been closed, one guard can be seen smiling and laughing as they take him away.
- Disappeared Dad: Mr. Framm was a pilot, and he died in a plane crash.
- Disney Dog Fight: Judge Crenshaw is surprised to learn that he's overseeing a custody hearing for a dog to start with, but when Mr. Chaney brings up the point that Buddy is old enough to be considered an adult in dog years and therefore should be allowed to choose his owner, he likes the idea. The case concludes outside the courthouse, where Buddy is indeed allowed to make his own decision and ultimately chooses Josh.
- The Dog Bites Back: Buddy/Old Blue ends up doing this to his former owner Norman Snively, literally, in the climax. Bonus points for the fact that, from the initial set up, it makes it seem as though Buddy is actually going to choose Snively over Josh before he attacks Snively, shreds up his newspaper, and runs back to Josh when he's finished.
- Down to the Last Play: The standard plot for the original films.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Professor Siles and Carlton, the main antagonists of Seventh Inning Fetch, (or at least their actors) make their first appearance as a pair of quirky referees in World Pup.
- Josh to teammate Larry Willingham; both are talented in basketball, but Josh is kinder and more of a team player, while Larry is arrogant and a ball-hog (mainly due to being spurred on by his hyper-competitive father). Larry, however, does show good sportsmanship after he and his new team lose to Josh and his old team in the championship.
- Also, Coach Arther Chaney to his predecessor, Coach Joe Barker. Barker is strict, critical, obsessed with winning, and willing to deter anything that appear to stand in the way of that (an attitude that ultimately gets him fired halfway through the film), while Chaney is encouraging, supportive, puts more emphasis on teamwork and unity, and refuses to concede to parental demands to keep ball-hogging star players in when they're hindering the team (which ultimately leads to the Timberwolves to victory in the end).
- Freeze-Frame Bonus:
- Josh has a newspaper clipping and a box of things that belonged to his dad and reveal that his name was Andrew ("Andy").
- The sign outside coach Barker's office actually says "COACHS OFFICE".
- At one point near the end of the state championship, you can see some dog drool dripping off the basketball as Buddy puts it up.
- Heroic Pet Story: The movie combines this genre with Sports Story. Instead of saving lives, the titular dog helps a basketball team win the state middle school championship.
- LEGO Genetics: Plays a significant role in Seventh Inning Fetch, as Buddy and his (grown) pups are kidnapped by a scientist who want to study the "Super-Sports gene" that they all possess.
- Let Him Choose: Invoked at the end of the first movie. Mr. Chaney reasons that Buddy is old enough to be considered an adult in human years and should therefore be allowed to choose for himself who he wants to stay with.
- Mood Whiplash: In the first film, the emotional scene in which Josh attempts to leave Buddy on an island is followed by a Hard Cut to the final game.
- Newhart Phone Call: In the first film, Snively talks on the phone about booking Buddy for a talk show appearance when he sees Josh untying Buddy.
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Between World Pup and Seventh Inning Fetch, Buddy's kids grow from puppies to adult dogs, but considering that they're dogs and age faster than humans, this is a rare justified example.
- Punny Name: The critical coach who initially leads the Fernfield Middle School basketball team is named Coach Barker; the energetic principal is named Ms. Pepper.
- Reality Ensues: Golden Receiver shows what a bad idea it is for a dog to play football when Buddy gets tackled.
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
- Principal Pepper in the first film. Coach Chaney also has shades of this.
- Coach Fanelli in the second film is also generally this, as is Coach Crenshaw in the fourth film.
- Jackie through the films, particularly in the first.
- Shoo the Dog: Attempted by Josh in the first film, after Snivley proves ownership of Buddy.
- Spinning Paper: Josh has a newspaper clipping that explains how his father died.
- Spin-Offspring: The Air Buddies series features what is apparently Buddy and Molly's second set of puppies having adventures of their own.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?:
- Subtly played in the first film: Whenever the newspaper arrives, Buddy always wakes up early, retrieves the newspaper, and attempts to bury it. The audience knows the reason behind this is because he fears them because his old owner often beat him with it, but the family thought it was simply mischief. It wasn't until the owner fought for the dog that he ended up revealing why.
- Buddy reacts with a bark to loud noises, as evidenced by the Judge using his paliff mallet, causing the dog to bark in response, implying that Buddy is also deeply afraid of loud thumps, presumably because of his former owner's aforementioned abuse.
- Would Hurt a Child:
- Snively has no qualms about running over Josh with his truck while chasing him in pursuit of Buddy.
- After the Timberwolves lose their first game of the season, Coach Barker centers his frustration over it on player Tom Stewart due to his having dropped the ball so many times during the game. He then makes Tom run through catching drills, but rather than take things slow to properly teach Tom, he instead violently pelts the boy with basketballs in his frustration, which not only deprives Tom of being able to catch them, but also hurts him in the process. Fortunately, Buddy, with his enhanced dog senses and own abuse experiences, hears or senses what's going on and leads Josh, Mrs. Framm, and Principal Ms. Pepper to the scene. Barker is immediately stopped and then fired (off-screen).
- You're Not My Father: In Golden Receiver, Josh misses his dad so much that he can't accept his mom's new boyfriend. After a talk with his coach, Josh is able to see that no one will ever replace his father or take his place in Josh's heart.