In this follow-up to Buena Vista's surprise 1997 success about a dog who plays basketball, the titular golden retriever shifts the focus of his athletic abilities to football. The story picks up where it left off, with young Josh (Kevin Zegers) struggling to cope with the loss of his father, while his mother (Cynthia Stevenson) decides to start dating. One day, Josh notices that his dog Buddy can catch a football just as well as he can shoot a basketball. The school team needs a couple of good players, so they both join. But when the nefarious owners of a Russian circus see Buddy in action, they scheme to abduct him and force him to star as their new main attraction.
Unlike its predecessor, "Air Bud: Golden Receiver" starts the action early on, and this time, Air Bud is the star and the humans are the co-stars. This time, the natural charm of Buddy is allowed to shine through, and he has a lot more character. Young patrons will enjoy watching Buddy playing cupid, being outfitted with shoulder pads and a helmet, and doing touchdown wiggles in the end zone. There are tons of impressive tricks, as well as the addition of new animal friends. However, while Buddy's actions seem natural, the other creatures' motions feel cartoonishly exaggerated.
In addition to good-hearted humor, "Air Bud: Golden Receiver" offers up moral lessons and affirmative messages. Josh's character learns that he cannot run away from problems, and that it's not doing a disservice to the memory of a loved one by going on with one's life. This film has a positive impact on audiences both young and old. Starring Kevin Zegars, Cynthia Stevenson, Gregory Harrison and Robert Costanzo. Directed by Richard Martin. Written by Paul Tamasy & Aaron Mendelsohn. Produced by Robert Vince. A Miramax release. Comedy. Rated G. Running time: 90 min