Each week, Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. This week in Cinema Varitek: The 2002 straight-to-video Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch, starring Caitlin Wachs, Kevin Zegers, Patrick Cranshaw, Chantal Strand, Richard Karn and five dogs (Shaq, Dakota, Shooter, Sniper, Tango), directed by Robert Vince, screenplay by four freaking people: Sara Sutton, Stephanie Isherwood, Anne Vince and Anna McRoberts.
Perhaps the worst genre of film ever conceived is children's sports movie. The plot is almost always aped from Bad News Bears: Team of losers gets together and wins (or loses) the big game, while the bullies learn valuable lessons in the process. Of course, our children who watch these films also learn the valuable lesson of cheating.
The good guys invariably cheat to win in every kids' sports movie. Ladybugs? Dressing up the kid from Neverending Story II as a girl to reach the finals Mighty Ducks 2? Lassoing an opposing player, at the Junior Olympics no less. Little Giants? Using flatulence as a weapon. Angels in the Outfield? Using angels as a weapon. The Big Green? Don't kid me, nobody's ever seen that movie. In Racing Stripes, a whole team of characters (pigs, goats, cartoon flies voiced by David Spade) conspires and cheats to help a zebra win the Kentucky Derby.
Maybe the worst offender, though, is the Air Bud series, which teaches children if you aren't good enough to win, you should find a dog to play for your team. In Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch, the fourth film in the original five-movie Air Bud series, Buddy plays for a junior high baseball team, despite not attending the school in question.
Seventh Inning Fetch actually doesn't mention baseball until exactly 23 minutes into the movie, though. The opening of the film details the movie's subplot: Two mad scientists are attempting to kidnap Air Bud and his puppies (a different set of puppies than the talking ones in the Air Buddies spinoff series -- confusing, I know!). The mad scientist duo -- who take their cues from Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci's Home Alone villains, which should tell you horrid this film is -- wants Buddy and his puppies so they can extract the "super sports gene" and sell it to athletes.
Oh, but Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch has other interwoven subplots as well. They're surprisingly disgusting: Young Andrea (Caitlin Wachs) is so sad when her brother Josh (Kevin Zegers, from the in-theater Air Bud movies) goes to college she chases him down on her bike and nearly sacrifices Buddy in order to stop his bus to say goodbye. Andrea and her friend Tammy (Chantal Strand, who's in all three direct-to-video Air Bud movies) is also nervous about going to junior high! Also, Blue from Old School (the late Patrick Cranshaw, also a three-time Air Bud vet) is in this movie as Sheriff Bob. You're my boy, Bob!
The movie doesn't even mention baseball until exactly 23 minutes in, when, while Andrea and Tammy search for an extracurricular, Tammy suddenly says, "That's it! Baseball!" Brilliant exposition and foreshadowing. The two characters do eventually try out for the baseball team -- strangely, coed fall baseball -- and while Tammy is the best player on the team, Andrea makes errors on every play at practice. Tammy explains to the coach the two are BFF ("Best friends forever," she says) and Andrea must make the team, too. So she does! Lesson to kids: If you can't make the team by yourself, force your way on.
The first pitch of the baseball season is a foul pop, and Tammy does a little shout out to another baseball movie with dogs in it while making the catch.