I grew up on a steady diet of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. While I don't plan on ever having kids of my own I've encouraged in others the same practice my mom adopted when I was little. Bullwinkle would come on in the wee hours of the morning and I watched it while my mom and dad slept in. When they got up I would ask them about the show and if there was something I didn't understand I would ask them about it. It was a show packed with old cultural references and glorious Cold War humor, so it was both a greatly educational and entertaining experience.
One great thing about having friends with kids is seeing the reactions that the little ones have to different bits of culture that their parents grew up with. Every supposed kids film that they watch has tons of stuff to please adults at the same time. But for each one of those movies I know that there is a separate industry that caters in films designed expressly to keep kids pacified for a little over an hour and nothing more. Sometimes I'm surprised and I end up with a film like The Revenge of Kitty Galore that seems to be in this camp and ends up having more going on with it. Then, other times, I'm watching Super Buddies and getting really depressed.
Somewhere in this country this DVD is going to be popped in and a little over an hour later nothing of value will have been imparted. Characters with nothing to worry about will stay the same, broad stereotypes reinforced, and children assaulted by severely ugly creature and effects designs. If all fiction is a form of escapism, pity the place any kid watching this movie will be escaping to.
The first twenty minutes had me chuckling in a way only the best bad movies can. There are horrible shots of puppies standing around "reacting" to events while creepy CGI has them speak. It also wears its Disney heritage with pride as John Ratzenberger shows how depressing his career can be when he's not voicing a Pixar character. He dresses up as Super Grandpa and ziplines into a pile of hay for yuks. Also make sure to buy your puppy Purina brand pup chow as the seven or so shots of the puppy standing next to the bag remind us.
So once the chuckles are out of the way I remembered that I'm in this for the long haul and the rest of the film happened. The Buddies all get power rings and start fighting crime with their gimmicks, a standard array of strength, telekinesis, elasticity, and so on. They use their powers to take out the criminal element of their sleepy farm town, which consists entirely of foreign stereotypes. Two Swiss criminals bungle their way through a robbery of the town candy store while pulling out Swiss knifes that they just can't seem to find the knife function to.
Super Buddies also has a weird sense of female empowerment that should probably have been reexamined. The girl pup is endowed with super speed but still spends her time zooming away to get the best accessory for her look, and zooms in to help girls score goals. So, apparently, the best way for a little girl to do anything successful in sports is when backed by a fashion-obsessed super pup. Then there's B-Dawg, whose characterization is a bit difficult to overlook, but I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't point out that in their attempt to make him look and sound "Urban", that the puppy just looks like it's wearing a tiny gimp suit sometimes.
The design problems extend to the rest of the film, which is incredibly ugly at times. The robbery in the candy store ends up looking like someone defecated in the center of the room and then threw sprinkles over it. Some of the other effects, like the scene that looks like a pig's head got transported on a dog's body, are just downright creepy to look at. Then there are the other performances that teeter into a realm of extreme annoyance, chief of which belongs to the sheriff who contorts around the town like a low-grade Jim Carey and gets worse when the alien overlord takes him over.
One thing I did find funny is how the movie goes out of its way to make sure at least one character has a parent who died. I understand that it wouldn't be a Disney movie otherwise, but the way its clunkily handled through literally two pieces of dialogue, "It's what dad would have wanted," and, "You were like the father to me that I lost." The last line is said to an alien dog. Jason Earles, whose stuck with it, deserves an award for getting the extra clause out without choking on it.
Perhaps there's something rotten in the state of children's movie markets that requires further examination. If Super Buddies is any indication, stereotypes and bad empowerment messages are glossed over easily. I'm not saying lines like, "Oh, I'll give you some catitude. You ain't seen nothing yet dogfriends," must have been easy to get out but they point toward an attitude toward entertainment for kids that is extremely hollow and unhealthy. Watching this movie is like drinking urine, technically non-toxic, but bad for you all the same.
Directed by Robert Vince.
Screenplay written by Vince and Anna McRoberts.
Starring John Ratzenberger.