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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Spooky Buddies (2011): Happy Howl-ween!

spooky buddies kids movie review

Everyone’s favorite talking puppies are back in a brand new adventure that pits them up against a wicked Warlock named Zarwick and his horrific Halloween Hound in a battle of good versus evil that’s sure to leave the whole family on the edge of their seat! Will the buddies survive this latest adventure, or will they end up as puppy chow? The answer may be a little spooky, but rest assured, dear buddies, because this is one tail you won’t soon forget!

Directed by Robert Vince, who is a serious baller when it comes to talking animal movies (I’m not kidding), Spooky Buddies is but one of many entries in Disney’s Air Bud/Buddies series of films, which got their start with 1997’s Air Bud. There are seriously like 11 or 12 of these movies, something that I certainly wasn’t aware of until I took a ride on the Spooky Buddies’ train.

spooky buddies kids movie review 1

Despite the number of films in the series, Spooky Buddies is the franchise’s first foray into what could be looked at as “horror.” Now, using the word horror might be pushing it a bit, but regardless of the fact that Spooky Buddies is an adorable family comedy about talking puppies, its core tale is rooted in horror. Furthermore, it’s set during Halloween, which is really the quickest way to capture my attention, whether or not I’m the intended audience.

The main story focuses on the before mentioned Zarwick (played by Harland Williams, who might actually be the new Christopher Lloyd) and his Halloween Hound trying to take over the world. To do this, the Halloween Hound needs to swallow the souls of five puppies, and there just so happens to be five precious golden retrievers that fit the bill. Chaos ensues and heads begin to roll. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but you follow my trail. Anyway, the buddies cannot take on this otherworldly menace on their own. Thankfully, however, there are others who join them in their fight, including their tween owners, a psychic dog named Zelda (which is a nice nod to Zelda Rubinstein) and a ghost dog.

Ghost Dog

There’s actually quite a bit more to the story than what I’ve gone over, and that’s because there is a surprising amount going on in Spooky Buddies. The film seamlessly shifts between the exploits of Zarwick, the kids, and the buddies, all of which gives Spooky Buddies a very fast pace that only slows down enough to give the viewer time to ogle at cute puppies. More specifically, cute talking puppies.

Speaking of which (or is it typing of which?), watching a movie like Spooky Buddies is a little odd at first, as I don’t watch a lot of/enough talking animals films, so when the buddies - as lovable as can be - start chatting it up, it sort of freaks me out. Not that it looks at all real or anything like that, but something about it spins my brain around a bit. Once I got passed the whole talking animals thing, I couldn’t help but be entertained by some of the buddies’ personalities, specifically B-Dawg, who is the four legged version of a suburban white boy living that “hip-hop lifestyle.” Adorned with a diamond encrusted “B” chain around his neck, B-Dawg often refers to the other buddies as “yo, dawgs!,” which is kind of the best. My one disappointment is that B-Dawg never takes the time to bust out a rap. I mean, that’s simply a wasted opportunity, if you ask me.

spooky buddies kids movie review B-Dawg

“Throw your paws in the air, and wave ‘em like you just don’t care!”

As I mentioned, Spooky Buddies is set during Halloween, and the Halloweeness of the film is quite satisfying. You get the Halloween drenched suburb setting where every house is decorated, and done so with the types of Halloween decor that you would find in any number of Halloween stores, something that I really appreciate. Children dressed up in an assortment of Halloween costumes literally take over the streets to earn themselves an eventual bellyache, which made me nostalgic for a time when I was young and trick or treating was a big deal. Spooky Buddies is legitimately enjoyable as a Halloween set movie with almost as much Halloween spirit embedded into its DNA as Trick ‘r Treat.  

spooky buddies kids movie review Warwick_the_Warlock

Even outside of the Halloween aesthetic, it’s kind of impossible to not be somewhat charmed by the whole affair. Adorable dogs wearing equally adorable Halloween costumes is enough to cut through my blackened heart in a way that I did not at all expect. Honestly, I was inclined to watch Spooky Buddies because I thought it would be a great movie to make fun of, and while I probably could make fun of it if I really wanted to, that wouldn’t be honest of me.

Spooky Buddies is a kids movie about talking dogs, something that will not ‘speak’ to people who are not either young children or parents of young children. On the other hand, people who do love Halloween, and I mean LOVE Halloween, will likely enjoy this one, so long as you’re okay with watching a talking dog movie. It’s not necessarily original or creative, but it is earnest, properly witty and charming, and I look forward to the day where I can share Spooky Buddies with my own little buddies.

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