While the original "Air Bud" managed to bark up a reasonably good box office score of $22M in 1997, the family film seemed an unlikely choice to turn into a franchise. Yet, more than ten years later, audiences have now seen five "Air Bud" films and a series of "Air Buddies" films focusing on puppies. The latest effort is "Space Buddies", which is somewhat more appealing, given the change from the usual sports theme that the series has had over the years.
This time around, the puppies find themselves at the site of an aerospace company that is conducting an experimental space flight with the hopes of offering more accessible space travel in the future. Unfortunately for the puppies (voiced by Henry Hodges, Liliana Mumy, Josh Flitter, Field Cate, Skyler Gisondo)), they stumble into the spaceship and are locked aboard when the ship takes off.
When there's problems with the spacecraft, the ship docks with a Russian space station, whose only inhabitants are a cosmonaut who simply wants to be left out in space (Diedrich Bader) and his dog, Spudnick (Jason Earles), who doesn't want to go along with his master's plan to stay on the ship. While the buddies manage to escape from the space station and go for a walk on the moon, they find the task of getting back to Earth isn't so easy.
As someone who clearly isn't in the target audience for this sort of film, I was expecting little from this latest edition of the "Buddies" series, although the results weren't as bad as expected. As for the film's negatives, they include a good deal of bathroom humor and a few jokes here-and-there and some one-liners scattered throughout the film that were quite corny. Bader's performance is another low for the flick, as calling it cartoony is an understatement.
However, the film does manage some sweet moments and as a larger adventure than the more sports-related films of the past, the film is mildly successful. Voice work isn't too bad either, and while the low-budget effort's visual effects can be rather primitive at times, they are generally acceptable or somewhat above-average for a basic, direct-to-video effort like this.
"Space Buddies" is not going to provide too much entertainment value for adults, but I think kids are probably going to find the feature fun and an improvement over prior editions of the series.
VIDEO: The film is presented by Disney in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality is perfectly acceptable, as while the film never appeared crystal clear, the presentation was at least consistently crisp and smooth. No edge enhancement was spotted, but the picture did show a couple of slight traces of pixelation. Colors remained bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was, as one might expect, somewhat on the tame side, with the majority of the audio coming from the front speakers. Surrounds are employed for occasional mild effects and ambience. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue and no distortion or other problems.
EXTRAS: Bloopers, "Dancing in the Moonlight" music video, "Disneypedia: The Buddies' Guide to Space Travel" and "Buddy Facts", as well as sneak peek trailers for other titles from the studio.
There is also a deal (good through 4/30/09) to get two stuffed animal versions of the "Space Buddies" puppies when both "Oliver and Company: 20th Anniversary Edition" and the Blu-Ray or DVD of "Space Buddies" is purchased. While there is a shipping/processing cost, there is also a $6 coupon on the front for the purchase of both titles.
Final Thoughts: "Space Buddies" is not going to provide too much entertainment value for adults, but I think kids are probably going to find the feature fun and an improvement over prior editions of the series. The DVD offers minimal supplements, but fine audio/video quality. A light recommendation.
The Film C+