15 July 2006 | BrandtSponseller
At least if you're a Disney fanatic (well, of the variety who loves their live-action films as well as the animated stuff), if you're a kid, if you're a kid at heart almost to the extent that you hardly realize you're an adult, if you love absolutely any film that features animals, especially when they're doing tricks, or if you're just not too demanding, Air Bud: World Pup is somewhat enjoyable to watch. I'm a Disney fanatic. I enjoyed this film enough, and I'll gladly watch it again.
But boy does it have a lot of problems. The main flaw arises from a combination of too many characters, too many plot threads and not enough time to take care of them all. In the space of 82 minutes, we've got adults getting married, teens falling in love and trying not to be awkward at it, teen competition for love and jealousy, preteens playing spy games, dogs falling in love, dogs playing soccer, dogs having puppies, manipulative parents who'll do anything to make their kids win being taught a lesson by their kids, housekeeper dilemmas, and crooks cooking up and executing elaborate plots. I'm probably forgetting something, but that's 10 big plot issues to be dealt with, with less than 10 minutes per thread to deal with them, and presumably weave them into a coherent whole that's both not too complicated--this is a kids' film, after all--and that's also humorous and heartwarming. Not surprisingly, director Bill Bannerman, on his first turn being completely in charge (he has a lot of previous second unit experience), wasn't quite up to the task. I'm sure it didn't help that there were at least three screenwriters involved, and probably dictating producers, as well.
The end result is that Air Bud: World Pup is extremely choppy. Events occur with little justification, and worse, often little explanation. People figure out and do things primarily because they need to--and fast--so that everything can arrive where it needs to arrive in less than 90 minutes. From one cut to the next, time might jump ahead six months or so. We have both adults who seem like maybe they're mentally disabled and kids who just intuitively figure out what a dog is thinking and rush into some unexpected action. Some of the threads should have simply been removed, because it's difficult to become too engaged in the film when as soon as you're introduced to an idea, it's already passed you by.
Also not helping is the fact that one of the threads is basically a rip-off of One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), minus a Cruella De Vil character. And another problem is that given the way the film is edited, I have to assume that the dog, Air Bud, probably couldn't do much with the soccer ball. Unlike the first two films, a dog playing a sport is almost an afterthought here, and when we see him, it's in very quick glimpses; every once in a while, these snippets appear to be even aided by computer animation.
Yet, for someone like me, there's a cheesy charm to Air Bud: World Pup. The script and performances often teeter between ridiculous, hokey and kinda clichéd. I tend to like that combination. It makes the film both a bit predictable and subtly bizarre. And at times, like the ending, when the film completely abandons consistency and basically becomes a commercial for the U.S. Women's Soccer Team, Air Bud: World Pup is so blatantly tacky that you can't help but love it.