Space Buddies (Blu-ray)
Directed by Robert Vince
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 84 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: February 3, 2009
Review Date: January 27, 2009
Another innocuous Disney family adventure comedy featuring the five talking Golden Retriever puppies involved in another wacky outing, Space Buddies is mostly predictable and forgettable, at least for the grown-ups. Young children, its primary audience, are obviously going to love it as they have the previous installments. Adorable talking animals, a nefarious villain who eventually gets thwarted, the usual Disney slapstick (though more toned down than I was expecting) and some not-so-heart stopping perils will insure that Space Buddies gets many replays.
The five pooch siblings: Budda (Field Cate), Budderball (Josh Flitter), B-Dawg (Skyler Gisondo), Mudbud (Henry Hodges), and Rosebud (Liliana Mumy) tag along with their masters on a school trip to Mission Control to watch a space launch. While backs are turned, the five pups get into the craft and find themselves on the way to the moon. For some reason, the ground controllers are unaware that anything alive is in the spaceship, the mission originally planned to test the craft via remote control. Once the ship reaches the moon and the walkway descends, the scientists are amazed to see dogs walking on the moon. On the way there and back, the pups go through a series of adventures including encountering a wacky Russian cosmonaut stranded in an abandoned Russian space station, a near crash into the moon, a meteor shower, and a spacewalk to repair a damaged communications antenna. All the while back on Earth, embittered scientist Dr. Finkel (Kevin Weisman) is doing everything he can to sabotage the mission so he can replace Dr. Pi (Bill Fagerbakke) as head of the space program.
Though screenwriters Anna McRoberts and Robert Vince have piled on incidents to give the story some action and adventure, the tension isn’t really ratcheted up to the kind of exaggerated levels that one would think today’s kids would find mesmerizing. This is more a low key adventure tale with the puppy buddies that will likely find a more welcome audience with much younger viewers. The personalities of the dogs are all pretty one dimensional: Mudbud is a muddy mess (best sight gag in the film is the dog shaking off his excess mud collection in a living room filled with white furniture and with eggshell white walls), Budderball is always hungry, B-Dawg has the hip lingo, and so on. A couple of CGI sequences (the dogs moon walking, for example) are poorly executed and are disappointing in this age of computer generated miracles on-screen, and we‘ve seen the animal talking business so much at this point that it‘s ceased to be amazing. On the other hand, the film does get affecting at times, especially when the Russian dog Spudnick (Jason Earles) gets reunited with his master whom he’s pined for throughout the entire movie. Even the most hardened heart can’t help but smile at a reunion like that.
The children who own the Buddies are an uninteresting lot and are played by an unimpressive line-up of young actors. More worthy of commendation are the adult actors who fit themselves beautifully into the piece. Sure, Kevin Weisman is predictably and insidiously sneaky as the film’s resident villain, but Bill Fagerbakke is fun as an absent-minded professor type, and Ali Hillis as the remote pilot and Lochlyn Munro as the mission control computer whiz give the film a lift with their high spirits and easy professionalism. Diedrich Bader gets to overact all over the place as the wild and wooly Russian spaceman determined to go down with his space station. The children voicing the five Buddies and Spudnick along with Amy Sedaris as the speaking voice for a pet ferret who bravely saves the day all provide personality plus that goes a long way in giving the film whatever entertainment value it possesses.
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Though flesh tones (and dog fur) are natural and appealing, sharpness levels of the Blu-ray disc are above average without being exemplary. The black of space likewise is good without possessing that infinite depth of black that singles out the best Blu-ray transfers. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track makes good use of all the available channels with effective pans across and through the soundstage where appropriate and a good spread to the music in both the front and rear channels. Dialog is firmly set in the center channel. LFE are sporadic in the mix but are potent when present.
Though there is no audio commentary, the user can turn on Buddy Facts and watch the movie with pop-up information throughout about the filming of the movie and about the history of space exploration.
“Disneypedia: The Buddies Guide to Space Travel” is a combination of behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of the movie and also a primer on some of the achievements of space exploration up to this time. Though it’s not particularly well organized, this little featurette offers many worthwhile jumping off points of discussion for families who want to talk about space travel and the history of the U.S. space program. It runs 13-minutes and is in 1080p.
“Buddy Bloopers” is a gag reel that’s a combination of real on-set mishaps along with some staged foul-ups with the Buddies talking to excuse their mistakes. It runs 2 ¾ minutes in 1080p.
“Buddy Finder” is a game viewers can play while watching the movie, a kind of scavenger hunt that involves finding 100 objects in the movie.
“Dancing in the Moonlight” music video is a very catchy tune written for the film and performed by Disney Channel star Alyson Stoner. It runs 3 ¼ minutes in 1080p.
The BD-Live Network will be available for this title but was not operational when the review was being written.
The disc offers 1080p previews for High School Musical 3, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Santa Buddies, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Pinocchio, Earth, and Bolt.
The third in the series of home video features with the five talking puppies in another nutty adventure, Space Buddies makes for an average family entertainment. Built-in games the family can play together might make sitting though the film multiple times less exacting for adults, and its relatively brief running time is another plus.