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Space Buddies (A Movie Review)


Starring Bill Fagerbakke, Ali Hillis, Lochlyn Munro, Kevin Weisman, Quinn Lord, Chris Gauthier, Diedrich Bader, Ellie Harvie and featuring the voices of Jason Earles, Field Cate, Amy Sedaris, Josh Flitter, Liliana Mumy and Skyler Gisondo.

Screenplay by Robert Vince & Anna McRoberts.

Directed by Robert Vince.

Distributed by Walt Disney Home Video. 84 minutes. Rated G.

Some children’s movies respect their audiences enough to come up with intriguing situations, snappy dialogue and well-rounded characters.

Then there are movies like Space Buddies.

These are movies that rely on obvious, cutesy dialogue, a somewhat ridiculous storyline (no one has been this excited about walking on the moon since the early seventies), obvious plot loopholes and lots & lots of fart jokes.

This straight-to-video second sequel to the basketball-playing-dog movie Air Bud (amusingly referred to as “a classic” in a DVD reissue coming attractions trailer on this disk) – though the basketball-playing dog himself seems to be long gone. In fact, Space Buddies is about his brood – five absolutely adorable lab puppies that have been spread out amongst five overly-precocious neighborhood kids.

Each of the buddies has a vague type – usually gleaned from their master – which is the only way you can really tell them apart. You have the smart, soulful leader, the frilly girl, the heavy, always-eating pup, the wannabe-gangsta pup and the pup who always gets dirty.

It’s not exactly characterization on a high level.

The inherent cuteness of the little dogs only goes so far. The filmmakers keep making them open their mouths and ruin everything.

Through a series of misadventures way too convoluted to go through here, the five puppies somehow get blasted off in a rocket to the moon and they must do anything they can to get back to Earth and their masters.

This leads to a series of not-so-thrilling adventure scenes like the pups experience zero gravity (predictably scored with “The Blue Danube Waltz”), when they walk on the moon and when they have to survive a meteor shower.

On a Russian space station, they meet a couple of other Earthlings, an insane Russian cosmonaut (played with no restraint whatsoever by Diedrich Bader) and a pure Russian mutt (voiced by Jason Earles, a/k/a Hannah Montana’s goofy older brother) who also wants to get home to his boy. Strangely, though the Russian dog has apparently been lost in space for years, the little boy who loved him doesn’t seem to have aged a day. I kept expecting him to turn out to be a grown-up.

In the meantime, mission control is trying to figure out how to communicate to the dogs. Luckily the smart and compassionate leader (Bill Fagerbakke of Coach) has a pet ferret who apparently can get through to the lost pups. I’m not sure, apparently humans can’t communicate with English-speaking dogs, but ferrets can. Strange set of rules the Space Buddies universe has.

Did I mention the bad guy in mission control who was trying to sabotage the operation? Oh yeah, of course I didn’t – because I was too bored by this obvious plot thread.

Space Buddies has more Disney product placement moments than you can shake a tail at. At one point a puppy suggests that takeoff is just like being on Space Mountain – as if a little puppy would have ever had a chance to have been on that Disneyland ride. Another puppy refers to the Jamaican bobsled team, undoubtedly in hopes of getting the little tykes in the audience to seek out the older Disney title Cool Runnings. There are also several completely superfluous scenes of Spanish-speaking Chihuahuas watching the progress of the mission on the news, apparently to get the kids psyched for the upcoming home video release of Beverly Hills Chihuahua – which, frankly, handled the whole talking dog idea much better.

Space Buddies is a pretty awful film for adults – but I wouldn’t be surprised if smaller children fell in love with it. However, I’d bet they’ll grow out of it long before they hit fourth grade.

On the plus side, mad props to whoever came up with the idea of Disney tween-queen Alyson Stoner covering King Mountain’s near-perfect 70s pop song “Dancin’ in the Moonlight” over the closing credits. Too bad the music video in the DVD extras is eventually more entertaining than the film itself.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: January 23, 2009.

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