Friday, August 22, 2014
Air Bud through a child's eyes
So we decided to have movie night tonight. Actually, my wife lost track of time and suggested movie night around 8:15 p.m., or as it's known during school nights, my son's bed time.
But it was a Friday night and while we do have plans on Saturday morning, there's nothing stopping us from making Saturday afternoon nap time, so we searched around on Netflix for something we thought we'd all enjoy.... or could tolerate that would also be fun for a 5-year old. When my son heard about Air Bud, the movie about a dog who plays basketball, he was immediately all for it.
The movie came out in 1997, my freshman year in college, so while I knew of it, I don't know that I'd ever seen it. But I know it turned in to quite the little franchise with Buddy, the Golden Retriever in the movie, going on to star in several other sports movies. I figured it'd be fine for us to watch.
Before we could start it, my son got blankets and pillows on the floor and told my wife she would be laying on the floor with him to watch the movie.* He got some of his stuffed animals out to watch with us (strangely, no dogs) and we all settled in for family movie night.
*My wife is not one who stays awake for movies. It's to the point where I don't let her pick what we watch because 30 minutes in she'll be asleep and if I'm going to end up being the only one watching, I'd rather it be something I want and not, say, The Notebook. I tell you to this to say she feel asleep about 30 minutes in to the movie.
The movie's going along fine (and there may be some spoilers in here, as much as you can spoil a 17-year old movie) with the basic plot being a family finds the dog after he's abandoned by a comically villainous clown who treats Buddy like dirt. Buddy and Josh the kid in the movie, become fast friends and since Josh just moved to a new town, Buddy is essentially his only friend.
At some point Josh learns Buddy can play basketball, which coincidentally is Josh's dream to play for the school team. The two play together in a park and though convenient plot twists, Josh makes the team and Buddy becomes a mascot for the team and also performs tricks at halftime.
Just before the championship game, our clown villain sees that Buddy has become famous and wants him back for his act. He dognaps him from Josh.
Here's were family movie night takes a turn. At Buddy's dognapping, my son starts crying. Nothing major, just tears running down his face while we tell him the movie's not over and we need to see what happens.
Well, what happens is that Josh dognaps Buddy back, but in an emotional scene, Josh tells Buddy that he knows Buddy isn't really his dog and he sets him free. Of course, being a dog, Buddy doesn't understand this, so Josh starts yelling at him to just go and says something to the effect that he doesn't want Buddy anymore.
Now we're in full-on crying. We're throwing things in anger and wanting to turn the movie off. It's at this point I realize we haven't watched enough movies for him to see the familiar build to a climactic scene of conflict only to know it'll be resolved shortly. For all my son knows, Josh is being mean to Buddy for no reason and he doesn't understand there's more to the movie.
This being a Disney movie, Buddy shows up at the team's final game and has to end up playing. The dog leads a comeback and Josh's team wins the middle school state title (I had no idea such a thing existed.) But there's one final courtroom scene where the villain comes back to try to get his dog one more time. Through movie magic, it's decided that Buddy can decide who he wants to live with. Outside the courtroom, Josh and the villain are placed on either side of the courthouse lawn with Buddy in the middle. It looks initially as though Buddy is going with the clown, causing my son, once again, to break into sobbing. Even after the dramatic turn where Buddy (SPOILER ALERT) chooses Josh, my son's still crying.
My wife, who has woken up at this point, is constantly reassuring him that it's just a movie, but it's as though the whole thing happened outside our window to our son. Part of me feels awful for him that he sees this as so traumatic. Part of me wonders at what age we realize the structure of movies and how they're going to end up. For now, all I do know is we won't be watching any of the Air Bud sequels anytime soon.