With On Demand’s offerings looking pitiful, I went to the last mom-and-pop video store in our town to check out the new kids’ releases…and brought home Disney’s Space Buddies.
• Five sibling puppies – who talk to each other when humans aren’t around – live with five different families. One day, they stow away on their kid owners’ school bus on a field trip to ground control of a space station, to witness a test launch of the first rocket/airplane hybrid.
• While exploring the station, the pups wander onto the test rocket/plane and it blasts into space. But when a sleazy corporate guy at ground control sabotages their fuel supply, will they be able to make it back home?
• Space Buddies has its own cinematic pedigree (pun intended): It began with Air Bud in 1997, followed by six sequels – five of which were direct-to-DVD. (By 2006’s Air Buddies, the puppies replaced Bud as the stars of the series.)
• The puppies’ dialogue – never thought I’d ever type that – is heavy on kid-friendly clichés of the “dude / dawg / whoa / oh, snap” variety, with a healthy amount of groan-worthy jokes thrown in.
• The special effects are lacking in parts; the quality of the talking-puppy animation is barely worthy of a TV commercial, and some of the space effects leave a bit to be desired.
• Also lacking is Jason Earles’ voice work for the Russian dog, Spudnick (who looks a lot like that famous beer spokesdog from the ‘80s). It’s the weakest Russian accent I’ve heard since Schwarzenegger in Red Heat.
• A surprise was the impressive, sweeping score by Brahm Wenger – frankly, it’s almost too good for a direct-to-video movie such as this.
• Humans include Bill Fagerbakke (Coach) as the klutzy supervisor at ground control, as well as Diedrich Bader (Office Space, The Drew Carey Show) – who is nearly unrecognizable as Yuri, a wacky Russian cosmonaut.
• Filmmaker Robert Vince has been a writer and/or producer on every film in the Air Bud/Buddies series – and since Air Buddies he’s been writer, producer, and director. While this level of responsibility and vision is admirable, Space Buddies may have benefited from him handing over one of these duties so he could focus on improving the other two.
Space Buddies was exactly what I was expecting from a G-rated, direct-to-DVD Disney release: light and safe in terms of content, action, and character development. It’s the movie equivalent of a student who does just enough to pass. You can almost see the brass at Disney looking at the finished product and saying, “Good enough.”
That’s not to say Space Buddies isn’t watchable. It’s harmless, inspiring fun for young kids, provided you have the tolerance for a couple of fart jokes.
Rating: 3 stars
(out of 5)
What did Dash think?Despite my criticisms above, I understand Space Buddies wasn’t made for me; it was made for kids of Dash’s age. And he did enjoy the film. At one point he even said with a laugh, “There are some funny parts in here.”
Will your kids like it?Kids over 10 may think it’s all a bit silly, but children in the single-digit realm should enjoy it. And there’s nothing objectionable, unless you're opposed to a little flatulence for a laugh.
Will your FilmMother like it?I don’t think she’ll watch Space Buddies and feel artistically fulfilled, but it’s a good way to spend a rainy day or Movie Night with the little ones.
* Director: Robert Vince
* Screenwriters: Robert Vince, Anna McRoberts
* Stars: Diedrich Bader, Field Cate, Jason Earles, Bill Fagerbakke, Pat Finn, Josh Flitter, Nico Ghisi, Skyler Gisondo, Henry Hodges
* MPAA Rating: G
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