Director – Robert Vince, Screenplay/Producers – Anna McRoberts & Robert Vince, Photography – Mark Irwin, Music – Brahm Wenger, Visual Effects Supervisor – James Tichenor, Visual Effects – Western X, Special Effects Supervisor – Rob Paller, Alien Characters – Mastersfx, Inc., Production Design – Michael Bolton. Production Company – Key Pix/Disney Home Entertainment
Trey Loney (Bartleby Livingstone), John Ratzenberger (Marvin ‘Gramps’ Livingstone), Michael Teigen (Sheriff Dan), Jason Earles (Jack Schaeffer), Sam Adler (Billy), Jonathan Morgan Heit (Pete), Darien Provost (Sam), Harley Graham (Alice), Jay Brazeau (Mr Swanson), Veronica Diaz-Carranza (Sofia Ramirez)
Colin Hanks (Megasis/Captain Canine), John Michael Higgins (Commander Drex), Jeremy Shinder (Budderball), Cooper Rawth (B-Dog), G. Hannelius (Rosebud), Tenzing Trainor (Buddha), Ty Panitz (Mudbud), Atticus Shaffer (Monk-E), Tim Conway (Deputy Sniffer), Fiona Gubelman (Princess Jorala), Maulik Pancholy (Curly), Chris Coppola (Mr Bull), Amy Sedaris (Betty), Tatiana Gudegast (Cat), Alyson Stoner (Strawberry), Debra Jo Rupp (Cow)
Bartleby Livingstone lives on a farm in the town of Fernfields with his grandfather Marvin. His favourite comic-book is ‘Kid Courageous and Captain Canine’ about the alien Captain Megasis who came to Earth, took the form of a dog and joined a kid in a series of adventures. It is Bartleby’s birthday and they are joined by several of his friends who also bring along their dogs. Bartleby’s dog Budderball and the other dogs wander into the barn where they uncover the five Rings of Inspiron from the Captain Canine comic-books. They rings attach themselves to the dogs and they afterwards discover that they have super-powers. They use these to start helping people and fighting crime. Bartleby realises that ‘Captain Canine’ is actually a true story and that Jack Schaeffer, the kid Megasis met, grew up to turn their adventures into the comic-book. Meanwhile, Megasis’s nemesis Commander Drex comes to Earth, taking over the body of Fernfields’ sheriff, determined to get back the rings.
Director/producer Robert Vince and his writer/co-producer Anna McRoberts specialise in live-action films that involve trained animals. These include the hit Air Bud (1997) and its four sequels about a basketball playing dog; The Duke (1999) about a dog that inherits an aristocratic title; MVP: Most Valuable Primate (2000), Vince’s directorial debut, and sequels about a chimpanzee that becomes an ice hockey star; Chestnut: Hero of Central Park (2004) about a dog adopted by orphans; Spymate (2006), a James Bond parody about a spy and his chimpanzee companion; The Search for Santa Paws (2010) and sequels about talking dogs saving Santa; the dog film Russell Madness (2015); Monkey Up (2016) about a talking monkey that becomes an actor; Pup Star (2006) and sequels about a singing dog; as well as a series of Air Bud spinoffs with Air Buddies (2006), Snow Buddies (2008), Space Buddies (2009), Santa Buddies (2010), Spooky Buddies (2011), Treasure Buddies (2012) and Super Buddies here. What makes most of these painful experiences is that the talking animals antics are voiced by actors delivering everything with excruciating smartass one-liners.
Super Buddies is a film that has already entered into the agonising before you even sit to watch it – and which the film itself does nothing to dispel. It is ninety minutes of unbearably witless inanity. I hate the type of children’s or fantasy films that have talking animals or fairytale characters spouting hip colloquialisms and modern pop culture one-liners. The dogs here, for instance, are using terms like OMG, “dudes and dudettes” or tossing off lines like “catch you later on the flip side, dude.” They try to save a cat up a tree that is cracking lines about “cattitude” and “cat-astrophe”s. The humour is all cartoonish children’s level slapstick – in one scene, the Super Buddies come across two cliche crooks robbing a candy store, precipitating a sequence where the robbers are tied up in liquorice whips, have gumballs fired at them like machine-gun bullets from one dog’s mouth, and then caramel syrup and Smarties poured over them. There is a comically stupid police sheriff played by Michael Teigen whose performance becomes positively bizarre once he becomes possessed by the alien. This is a film that thinks it is the height of hilarity to show an alien shape-changing into a pig to emerge as a pig with its skin painted green – and then in the next scene show the pig driving a pick-up truck.