While browsing the back of the box for the latest "Air Bud" release, I was surprised when I looked at the writer's credits. The film has no less than four credited screenwriters. Was such a comittee needed to complete a movie about a dog that plays baseball? Anyways, the film is the fourth in the "Air Bud" series, a group of films that has gone on long past its barking point, but continues to go forward thanks to what likely fuels the backing of many of these direct-to-video sequels - parents are likely familiar with the series, so they may be comfortable with the film.
As with some of the other direct-to-video entries, the series has chosen to keep following the audience as they get older rather than continue to appeal to younger viewers. This time, Josh (Kevin Zegers) is going off to college, leaving little sister Andrea (Caitlin Wachs) to worry about advancing in school. With Josh heading off to college, Andrea is depressed from the lack of attention that she recieves from her parents (Cynthia Stevenson and Richard Karn) and irritated that she's not doing well at baseball. Of course, Buddy will help out in both areas. The dog also happens to be best actor in the picture.
Although admittedly not nearly as embarassing as the "Beethoven" series has become, "Air Bud" is also starting to become a bit stale. The film doesn't start out very promisingly - we find out that a couple of bumbling scientists are planning to steal Buddy's puppies to isolate their "Super Sports Gene". There's another strange sequence early on, as Buddy nearly gets run over by the college bus so that Andrea can say goodbye to her departing brother. The scene is accompanied by such ridiculously mushy music that a scene that was intended to be emotional becomes hilarious.
Still, this is harmless stuff and many children will likely find it mildly appealing (especially some children who are going through the same situation as Andrea, feeling as if the other children in the family are getting more attention), although they may feel like they've started to see the same plot - Buddy has to foil the plot of a couple of idiot criminals - a few too many times already.
VIDEO: "Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch" is presented by Disney in 1.33:1 full-frame. The straight-to-video picture looks as if it was shot full-frame, although I can't confirm that. Still, the picture quality is fairly enjoyable. Sharpness and detail are consistently pleasant throughout the film, as the picture appeared crisp and well-defined, with no noticable softness.
A few little problems popped up here and there throughout the presentation - a slight trace of pixelation was spotted, as was a hint of edge enhancement. Neither of these flaws were particularly noticable though, and colors appeared well-rendered, too.
SOUND: "Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but the film's soundtrack is almost completely a front-heavy presentation. Score, ambient sounds and dialogue remain clear.
MENUS: Sight animation opens the main menu, but the other menus are static and fairly ordinary.
EXTRAS: A short "making of" featurette; "Batter Up" interactive game; gag reel; sing-along song, "Take Me Out To the Ballgame"; "Sneak Peek" trailers for four Miramax kids titles.
Final Thoughts: "Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch" is pretty harmless fare - while not a really a bad movie, it just seemed like a pretty bland one. Disney's DVD edition provides good audio/video quality and a few supplements. Rent it.