“Welcome to Fernfield, where anything is possible” reads a sign as we follow a happy go-lucky lab through town in the opening sequence. And the sign is right, or nearly right, anything in Air Bud: World Pup is possible…that is, except for any semblance of a plot, writing skill, parenting, or logic but I reckon if you remove all of those things then anything is possible!
We open at the alter of a wedding and golly-gee, the new step son forgets the ring! What to do? Well, he’s got Buddy by his side, in a dog tux no less! So, on command, Buddy runs home through the entire town (who says hello to him btw), operates a conveniently placed construction lift to the second floor, hurdles the porch, bounds through the open window and fetches the ring box. This is amazing! How is the dog trainer not listed in first position in the credits?! He’s the real star of the film.
On the heels of these nuptials, we’re introduced to a Buddy’s love interest for the film however, this dog isn’t nearly as impressive. She loses her collar while roaming around to which, Buddy tracks her down and returns it to her mansion! Buddy just hit the jackpot because this bitch is rich! But don’t look now, trouble is abound. A nefarious “dog catcher” is lurking in the shadows stalking nice houses with doggos to steal/kidnap/ransom? I don’t know! They never bother to explain who these guys or provide even the slightest motivation for why they’re here in Fernfield.
Next up, forced step-father/son bonding in what is quite literally the 2nd of 4 scenes with the boy and new step-father played by none other than Dale Midkiff. In what would have been inappropriate foreshadowing for a family film, Dale is well known for playing the lead in Pet Cemetary but the film doesn’t capitalize on this. Here, the father plays with a swiss army knife that his father gave him and his father…yada yada rehashed storyline. But the boy, who’s high school aged now, has no idea what a pocket knife is. Who doesn’t know what a pocket knife is? I’m now getting frustrated with the writing, it’s not just bad, it’s not even direct-to-video bad, it’s far beyond that and I’m not talking about the “so bad it’s good” bad. This is awful and when the writers can’t think of anything bad to write, they just show montage after montage of the dog running through town or playing soccer. Conservatively, 40 mins of this 84 min movie are lacking any dialogue.
OK, got off the rails there a bit, need to get back. OK so the boy meets rich dog’s owner, who happens to be wealthy, British, new in town, his little sister’s soccer coach, and at his high school. What are the odds? Anything is possible in Fernfield!
HS soccer team needs players so the boy and Buddy join because, this is normal. Dog has a cannon for a snout punch shot and gets on team. They play game 1, get smoked. Rich girl hosts a party later on at her house, there are bubbles when you enter so you know it’s cool. Her Dad is quite aloof and locks himself in the closet but the boy comes to the rescue with his new pocket knife! You know what else is on the pocket knife? While the boy is showing off the pocket knife to Rich Girl, they discover a special whistle. I know you know what this whistle does. I know you know he doesn’t. They laugh when it ‘doesn’t work’. Folks, you guessed it, it’s a dog whistle. HOW DOES HE NOT KNOW WHAT A DOG WHISLTLE IS?!? This is the 3rd installment of an oddly successful franchise with a dog that is trained beyond measure and the boy doesn’t know what a fucking dog whistle is or how it works! I’ve now given up entirely.
The rest of the film, the soccer team made of people who’ve never played soccer before (except Rich Girl) win games, get DQ’d from the league for having a dog, get let back in the league, continue to win and make it to the championship. The boy and Rich Girl go on a bad date, then it’s awkward because he was trying to be a hipster haha #fail. Meanwhile, Buddy hooks up with his love interest because he’s Air Mother-F#@*&%$ Bud and they have a bunch of puppies. Queue, nefarious ‘dog-catchers’ who devise a plot to impersonate a butler to steal the puppies on the day of the championship game. Rich Girl, Buddy, the boy, his younger sister and her friend track down the would-be puppynappers to their secret hide-out. I know what you’re thinking…Where are the parents? They went to the game. Seriously. Fully aware that people had stolen their dog’s puppies, they allow their children to go search for them and steal them back from the puppynappers while they go to the soccer game and wait for them. Anything can happen in Fernfield!
The kids rescue the puppies and they make it back to the soccer game just in time to score 2 goals and win the game. They also had time to stop and get mini-jerseys for all the puppies that match their jerseys. So cute!
Finally, there’s a weird tie in with the USWNT where one of the players recruits Buddy, a male dog, to play soccer for the United States Women’s National Team. We fast forward to the final game of the World Cup. Tie-game and the shoot out begins. USA’s goalie hurts her shoulder making a save and can’t return. Brandi Chastain cameos and scores a goal for the USA and Buddy subs in for the injured goalie. Now I’m angry because this is absurd. Buddy obviously makes the save against a professional soccer player in a penalty kick scenario. Do you know how hard professionals kick the ball? I do. I looked it up. They can kick with 1200 pounds of force. That would literally kill a dog if they took it to the face like Buddy did. How many dogs were injured in the making of this film? Where is PETA?!
Welcome to Fernfield folks, anything is possible.