Blu-ray Review: Space Buddies (2009)

Blasting Onto DVD & Blu-ray
On 2/3/09

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Unfortunately, it seems as though we'll never fully recapture the same intense fascination with our Space Race that held global citizens captive with anticipation in the 1960s as-- over the last few decades--coverage of NASA has focused predominantly on either astronomical budgets instead of astronauts and disasters instead of dazzling achievements.

Yet, despite this, Hollywood has refused to follow suit-- for better or worse. Launching a series of movies aimed at children to amaze and astound such as the lackluster 3D adventure Fly Me to the Moon which sadly used insects in space as the big draw and the only slightly more entertaining Space Chimps which inexplicably abandoned its clever premise midway through for cheesy science fiction fodder-- it was only a matter of time before Walt Disney Home Entertainment decided to get in on the action themselves.

Following last year's brilliant Oscar nominee WALL-E which seemed to blend the films of Charlie Chaplin with the character of Ernest Borgnine in Marty for its ultimately cautionary tale of a futuristic dystopia caused by wasteful consumerism, Disney left the highbrow aims of their superior Pixar offering behind to move their ultra successful Buddies franchise into the cosmic landscape.

Succeeding Air Bud and that film's many sequels which found its athletic Golden Retriever excelling at any given sport, Disney followed the example of the era of The Muppets followed by its adorable Muppet Babies by serving up a whole new, baby breed of puppies-- Bud's offspring-- the Buddies.

In past adventures the talking Buddies have conquered both Air and Snow and in this one, the group of loyally precocious Golden Retreiver puppies including the Zen-like Buddha, ultimate girly-girl Rosebud, the hip-hop playa puppy B-Dawg, incessantly messy Mudbud, and the over-eater prone to flatulence Budderball-- find themselves sent into orbit after following their beloved children on a field trip and in a series of misadventures end up making their way towards a lunar landing.

Decidedly aimed towards the youngest Disney fans with its overly simplistic plot and slightly strange animation of making the dogs' mouths move as they speak (to eerie effect)-- while it has fun using true events and famous NASA quotes as fodder in their "one small step..." and "no pup left behind" quest and it's much more enjoyable than both Fly Me to the Moon and Space Chimps-- ultimately, it's a forgettable straight-to-disc adventure in which the new supporting players, instead of the Buddies, keep us compelled throughout.

Featuring the adorable addition of a Russian homesick Minitature Bull Terrier "dogmonaut" Spudnick who has been lampooned in space along with the astronaut Yuri (Diedrich Bader) whose solitude has resulted in the Americans analysis that they're "not sure he's flying with a full jet pack," Spudnick aids the young Buddies as they go about walking on the moon and external repair in space to return them safely home, thanks both to his experience as well as their supporter in mission control-- a quick-witted ferret named Gravity voiced by Amy Sedaris.

Although chances are parents and children over the age of ten will be easily bored and should either turn to Disney's WALL-E or Tuesday's other animal-centered animated release of the 20th Anniversary of Oliver and Company, no doubt older viewers will enjoy the riffs on space history and the many films that came before it, especially in its overt homage to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Equipped with Disney's popular BD-Live Network feature (available currently in the United States only) which offers internet connected BD-Live compatible players the chance for fans to take part in movie chat, movie mail, challenges, and check the status of their Disney Movie Rewards Live balance-- the clarity of the Blu-ray (which consists almost fully of special effects constructed via a green screen) is extremely sharp, filling widescreen enhanced televisions with superior 1080p High Definition (1.78:1 aspect) picture and 5.1 DTS-HD or Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Also offering English subtitles for the deaf and/or hearing impaired, the Blu-ray's imaginative menus and features contain all of the extras available on the DVD including bloopers, optional pop-up facts that play throughout, and Disney Channel star Alyson Stoner's rendition of "Dancing in the Moonlight" in a specially made music video. However, exclusive to the Blu-ray there's also a great scavenger hunt feature allowing young viewers the chance to view the film virtually along with their favorite Buddy while locating one hundred selected items included in the film.

Additionally, in a great joint opportunity that's sure to be a must for Disney devotees in time for Valentine's Day, those purchasing Space Buddies on either DVD or Blu-ray along with Oliver and Company on DVD are able to get two collectible plush buddies free (examples pictured below)-- plus shipping and processing-- before the offer expires on 4/30/09 or while supplies last.