Greetings boys and ghouls! “Spooky” Chaz Kangas here with a positively BONE CHILLING movie review! With all hallow’s eve slowly descending upon us, what better time than now to curl up with a haunted can of Pepsi One and a terrifying large one-topping pizza from Domino’s and watch a ghastly horror film? It’s a time for thrills, chills, spills, dills, fills, grills, quills, mills, hills, Stills, Nash & Young, so with no new Saw movie this year it’s time we check in with another frightening franchise that will make your skill crawl. I’m talking about Spooky Buddies!
Yes, Disney’s beloved Buddies are back. If you haven’t been following the franchise and don’t have the arterial fortitude to watch the clip, allow me to bring you up to speed. In 1997 there was a movie called Air Bud about a basketball playing dog that made Disney a lot of money and changed the course of cinema forever. Four movies later, the titular dog chose another golden retriever to be his bottom bitch and in the next movie five little Buddies burst through her cute puppy uterus like a stream train through a brick wall. Something in their birth canal emergence distorted the astral plane (I’m assuming) because all of a sudden in the franchise’s sixth entry Air Buddies both they and their parents can all of a sudden talk. Since then the puppies have been everywhere from the North Pole to Space and met everyone from a lost Russian Cosmonaut who they almost murder (Diedrich Bader) to an astro-physicist ferret (voiced by Amy Sedaris). Disney’s just released the 10th or 11th film in the series (depending whether or not you include the prequel The Legend of Santa Paws) and you probably wondering what type of well-adjusted adult would willingly watch it?
FULL DISCLOSURE - I’m not one of those curmudgeons on the internet who pick apart silly kids movies for not being some depressing artsy film that glorifies ugly people. No, instead I wrote my thesis on children’s programming of the 80s and 90s, as well as have an appreciation for absurdity rivaled only by my love of fried foods and horrifying violent rap music. I’m recapping this film within the context that it’s entertainment from Disney meant for impressionable children. FULLER DISCLOSURE – I love puppies. FULLEST DISCLOSURE – The last installment of the series I watched was 2009’s Space Buddies, so if any of my gripes were somehow explained in Santa Buddies please let me know in the comments and I’ll amend accordingly.
Our story begins on a full moon Halloween night in 1937 where an evil warlock named Warwick (Harland Williams, Disney’s Rocketman & Insane Clown Posse’s Big Money Hu$tla$) has kidnapped five adorable beagle puppies of the same bloodline to feed their souls to the Halloween Hound, a merciless dog-demon, in order to free the creatures of the underworld. After the Halloween Hound eats four of the puppies’ souls, the police barge in and one of the souls, Pip (Frankie Jonas), escapes and becomes a ghost. A midst the melee, Warwick turns two adults into frogs and escapes to the underworld as a crying child carries the stone remains of what was ones his beloved pup Pip. Fast-forward to the present day and the Buddies wander off from their owners’ Halloween trip into the same haunted house and inadvertently summon the Halloween Hound and Warwick into our world. They run off and it’s up to the ghost of Pip to warn them.
So, as you might imagine, this is a particularly morbid children’s movie. I remember working at the Virgin Megastore years ago and hearing plenty of horrible parents complain about how the villains in The Little Mermaid and The Lion King were “too scary.” Folks, this is a hound from Hell who we literally see eating the souls of puppies. When Pip confronts him later, the Halloween Hound actually says to him “I remember your siblings, their souls were delicious.” You would think Harland Williams would at least be hamming it up too, but (save one legitimately entertaining scene where he trick-or-treats at a large adult’s house who’s dressed as “Frankendude – the surfing Frankenstein*”) he bafflingly plays the scary warlock totally straight. There’s also a lot of confusing religious talk (Bud-dah, the Buddhist puppy, explains to the gang how ghosts are souls that got lost on their way to Heaven) and symbolism (the pups switch the Warlock’s Book of Spells with the Bible, leading to him accidentally beginning the “Our Father” prayer mid-incantation), but nothing screams of “HOW DID THIS GET IN A CHILDREN’S MOVIE?!” as much as fat flatulent puppy Bud-derball saving the day by FARTING INTO THE HALLOWEEN HOUND’S MOUTH, KILLING HIM INSTANTLY. Every word of this paragraph is real, but in the event you don’t believe what I’ve just told you, here’s a picture of it as it happens:
At first, seeing a demon from Hell vanquished by a cute puppy farting in its mouth made me want to rally against the film and call it the worst children’s movie ever made. Then, I remembered being ages 6-11 at the height of X-Men, Mortal Kombat, and Spawn hysteria and realized that if I were given carte blanche to put whatever I wanted in a Disney movie, I would probably have a bunch of adorable animals, farts, Elisa Donovan and unflinchingly graphic violence. With all of the aforementioned elements in Spooky Buddies, I have to say I’ve never seen a kids movies so in touch with what children really want to see. Factoring in the scenes with the adults that are actually funny and director Robert Vince maintaining the best pacing in the entire series, I’d call this film essential holiday viewing. Just make sure you don’t find yourself on the “extras” section of the DVD or else you’ll be subjected to this absolutely abominable butchering of my 4th favorite song of all time.
We give Spooky Buddies a Four Out of Five
So until next time…let’s agree to agree!
*You have no idea how much the AP English student in me wanted to correct the film and call him “Frankendude’s Monster.”