Air Bud was a surprise commercial success in 1997: Made for a mere $3 million, it went on to gross over $25 million in U.S. theaters alone. So it was perhaps inevitable that another Air Bud film would be made as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, Air Bud: Golden Receiver is a mess of a sequel, a somber, slow-paced film that inexplicably downplays the franchise's enjoyable gimmick—a spunky pooch can actually play basketball and football—in favor of a tepid subplot involving its confused adolescent protagonist (Kevin Zegers) and his fixation on his charming, attractive mother (Cynthia Stevenson) and hatred of her new suitor, a freakishly normal veterinarian (Gregory Harrison). Of course, there's nothing wrong with making a film about the difficulties of adolescence. But Air Bud: Golden Receiver is, as its title would indicate, supposed to be a wacky performing-animal film, and attempts to integrate somber family drama into a zany animal-playing-football movie are stylistically confused and often boring. Exacerbating the film's bizarre shifts in tone is an unnecessary subplot involving a pair of bungling dognappers and their attempts to steal Air Bud just before the big game. Air Bud: Golden Receiver is so overloaded with useless subplots that the film's ostensible main plot, involving the dog leading Zegers' football team to the playoffs, often seems like an afterthought. The performances are pretty good, though, with the notable exception of Harrison, who is stiff and unlikable as Stevenson's object of affection.
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If Jesse Armstrong wanted Jeremy Strong to jump in a river, he would have put it in the script