Wednesday, October 19, 2011

31 Days of Halloween Day 13: Horrific Movie Review – Spooky Buddies

Note: I want you all to know that I love you people, and that this is the kind of torture I put myself through to create enough material for the month and break things up a little bit so 31 Days of Halloween is not all toy reviews.
Before we go any further I have to point out that my son is three years old and I cannot wholly endorse his taste in anything. While he has taken in Episodes IV-VI of Star Wars in basically a single sitting and walked out of The Phantom Menace, he likes Dora the Explorer and that awful fucking Gumball show. So he’s got a good foundation, but clearly there is a lot left to learn.
I’m just saying don’t hold it against him that he enjoyed Spooky Buddies. I’m trying not to.

If you’re not familiar with Disney’s Buddies, they’re five adorable golden retrievers that talk and have adventures and possess the uncanny ability to remain absolutely still while humans actually do stuff and lousy animators make their mouths appear to move. This is their fifth direct-to-home release, with other entries consisting of them helping Santa, skiing and being shot into space. Sadly, they returned from that last journey to curse us with this newest Halloween-themed “adventure”.
I have managed to avoid the Buddies movies until now. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision. Lord knows I enjoy a good talking animal movie. Babe and its sequel are a couple of my favorite movies. It’s just that I’m at work a lot and some things get watched without me.
But I made a point of wanting to watch Spooky Buddies. We needed a good Halloween-oriented family movie to watch together.
This wasn’t it.
The movie opens with Warwick the Warlock (ugh) sacrificing five puppies (not the titular Buddies) to a mirror so the Halloween Hound can open some kind of portal or something. I was never really clear on why the Hound could do this or what Warwick hoped to gain out of it, but I doubt very much that it matters. Oh, and the warlock isn’t actually stabbing puppies in the head or anything, the Hound is simply sucking out their souls and turning them to stone. Graphically. I thought it was a bit much for a movie that is clearly topping out its demographic at 5 years of age.
Note: Harland Williams (ugh) is playing Warwick the Warlock and Diedrich Bader is voicing the Halloween Hound. I don’t expect any better than this from Williams (don’t get me wrong – I don’t begrudge the guy his prolific career), but Bader is the current voice of Batman. C’mon Warner Bros. You need to work on your contracts. We can’t have the Dark Knight showing up in drek like this. It strains his credibility.
So the Halloween Hound turns four of the five puppies (beagles, I think) into stone, but the fifth manages to escape and knock Warwick into the mirror or something but gets turned into stone anyway. His soul just doesn’t get eaten by the Halloween Hound. Instead, he ends up as the worst-looking ghost effect I have ever seen. Seriously – the Casper movie came out sixteen years ago and the CGI ghost looked better than this:
Speaking of lousy CGI, watching the Buddies talk is maddening. The dialogue scenes go on forever because you have five different characters that have to get across their personalities every single time they talk. Because the fact that the fat dog is wearing a basketball jersey is not enough to show that he likes sports. He also has to use phrases like, “That idea sounds like a home run!” in every speaking scene. What’s amazing about these scenes is the absolutely incompetent way that the dogs’ mouths are animated. It looks terrible. The synching isn’t very good and the actual execution looks so fake and bizarre that I’m afraid kids are going to have night mares about golden retrievers with dislocated jaws coming to swallow them whole. I certainly did.
Oh, wait – angry villagers showed up and yelled at Warwick. That’s what caused him to screw up his spell or whatever. The kid that owned the dog that’s now a shitty ghost led them to Warwick’s house. So they stopped the evil Warlock but the kid’s puppy still died. And in a trademark Disney Tragic Moment, the kid picks up his dead stone dog and mopes off with it.
Cut to enough years later that the kid is now an old man and some wretchedly annoying woman is showing five wretchedly annoying stereotypes of children Warwick’s house. The Buddies are also there. I found this a little weird since the woman turned out to be a teacher and the kids are on a field trip, but apparently in the Buddieverse not only do dogs take on the stereotypical traits of the owners; they also go everywhere the owners do.
The worst part of this movie – and that is really saying something – is how the creators of the Buddies chose to portray the differences in the puppies so you could actually tell who is who. Each kid has stereotypical traits – a wigger, a fat kid, a redneck, a hippie, and a girl. The kids’ corresponding dogs dress accordingly, which is just awful. The fat kid’s dog is even fat and they appear to have accomplished this by putting the poor puppy in a canine fat suit.
I’m only going to cover this next bit once because for the remainder of the review I’ll refer to the dogs as a unit. It doesn’t matter who does what (except for one instance that I’ll get to later) because they are all together constantly. The five puppies are:
  • B-Dawg – Guess who he belongs to
  • Budderball – the fat one that’s into sports, which does not make sense to me
  • Buddha – a fucking hippie dog
  • Mudbud – who I thought was “Mudbutt” until I looked it up; this one’s a redneck
  • Rosebud – the girl who has no other defining characteristic. I think Laura Hudson should write a column bitching about this
Just fucking awful.
So we’re introduced to the Buddies and also I forgot to mention that Warwick the Warlock has a pet owl that is voiced by Ryan Stiles. While I hate that they’re in this movie, I love the fact that Diedrich Bader and Ryan Stiles appear to be real-life pals. Ever since their days on the original Whose Line Is It, Anyway? they’ve been appearing together in stuff. That’s pretty cool and I like both of those guys. I guess Greg Proops was too cool for Spooky Buddies.
So there’s this owl and he flies around and reminds us that Warwick is still stuck in that mirror, because that happened all of seven minutes ago and we might have forgotten, what with the excitement of seeing overweight dogs in basketball jerseys and whatnot.
The kids head back to the bus, but of course B-Dawg – being the tough, urban youth of the group – has to prove his street cred by going into the spooky old house.
I have a problem with Spooky Buddies’ portrayal of canines at this point. Over the years movies and television have taught us that animals have a great sensitivity to the paranormal. House pets are always the first to know when supernatural shenanigans are afoot. But in this movie, the puppies are totally unaware of the presence of Ghost Dog. As soon as B-Dawg enters the house, that stupid-looking specter is flying around all, “Oh no! Don’t come in here! There’s a fat evil warlock trapped in a mirror and the first thing I thought when I saw you was that you look stupid enough to release him!” and B-Dawg doesn’t bat an eye.
Somehow or another B-Dawg and all of the other puppies make it to the secret summoning mirror and the Halloween Hound shows up. I don’t know how this happened since he has to be summoned and Warwick failed to do this over thrity years ago but I guess just shut up about it. He’s looking through the mirror and then one of the Buddies does something stupid and Warwick just sort of flops out of the mirror, followed by the Hound. The Buddies take off because they’re just fucking dogs and what are they gonna do?
A bunch of other mind-numbing stuff happens for a while, including the idiot teacher setting up a Halloween party for the town’s adults, Warwick the Warlock riding his broom around like a surfboard, and the continued lack of explanation as to how the Halloween Hound is just walking around town turning pets into stone when nobody was able to summon him in the first place. I don’t get it. But then again, I wasn’t paying that much attention. I suppose it’s possible that there was a complex, nuanced plot that I just sort of missed but I think that’s about as likely as a band of wild fairies living in my toilet tank.
Somehow the idiot kids become aware that Warwick the Warlock is free and go tell the sheriff about it. Naturally, the sheriff handles things by giving the kids all the evidence from the case. Just handing over the warlock’s glowing magic staff because the stupid wigger kid thinks it would make a great piece for a Halloween costume. I am not kidding. This officer of the law just hands a minor a murder weapon and makes him promise to bring it back; you know – whenever. Granted, the victims were dogs and the method was petrifaction and evacuation of the soul; but you probably still don’t want a kid just walking around town with that and dear God why am I even thinking about this?
At some point we are introduced to the craptastic Frankendude.
This is the idiot teacher’s husband in his Halloween costume. I guess he’s purple for a good reason, but I cannot imagine what that reason might be. You can just tell that Frankendude was the pet character of one of the morons that wrote this piece of crap movie because he figures into things way more than he should but is in no way key to the plot. Warwick hypnotizes him in pretty much the same fashion as the Roger Delgado Master from old Doctor Who and commands Frankendude to find his magic murder staff.
So Frankendude goes and busts up the Halloween party which is by far the best thing that happens in this movie because it cuts short the worst fucking version of “Monster Mash” you’ve ever heard in your life. Even though I love you people, sometimes I want to hurt you:
I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.
But this is the home stretch, which is fortunate because I am developing a migraine from thinking about this garbage.
Warwick the Warlock gets his staff back, proving that the townspeople are even more incompetent than he is. He heads back to his creepy house to finish summoning the Halloween Hound which, like I said, doesn’t make any sense because the Halloween Hound has been walking around town the whole time. Also, I’m still not quite clear on why he wants to summon the Hound in the first place.
Meanwhile, the Buddies and their idiot owners track down the kid who owned the dog that is now the stupid Ghost Dog. This happened for no reason other than the movie needed an adult to confront Warwick because it would have been a bit much to have Harland Williams just straight-up jacking kids in the face.
As I mentioned before, that kid is an old man now, but agrees to help because he still misses his dog that he hasn’t had for like, forty years. I don’t want to minimize the impact of losing a pet, but maybe this guy should have moved on. I mean, he’s not married or anything. I don’t think he even has a job.
So the old guy and the kids and the buddies go to Warwick’s house and as soon as they get inside Warwick rides his broom downstairs and knocks the old guy out. The kids run up to the summoning mirror room and start reading from some scroll or something to banish the Halloween Hound. This is utterly fucking baffling to the point where I don’t even want to try and explain, but I will:
Despite the fact that the Halloween Hound was never successfully summoned in the first place he has been walking around town petrifying pets. Now he has to be banished while Warwick is still in the process of trying to summon him even though he is already here. And we know he’s already here because he just tried to use his turn-things-to-stone breath on Budderball. Budderball – being fat – naturally farts a lot (because he’s fat). This hasn’t been shown at all in the movie up to this point, but I’m sure the writers felt they were safe in assuming the audience would know that Budderball farts a lot because he’s fat and that’s just what fatties do (I’m not flogging a deceased equine here, am I?). So to avoid being turned into stone, Budderball turns around and farts at the Halloween Hound’s stone breath and directs it back at him and this battle of wills has totally replaced Dumbledore versus Voldemort in Gringott’s as my favorite “battle of insubstantial-but-dangerous stuffs” of all time.
So the Halloween Hound is now stone.
Somehow all of these fucking idiot kids and their dogs cast Warwick back into the mirror (I presume more bodily functions were involved) and the day is saved. The original dogs from the beginning are even restored and the old guy gets his puppy back so now he can finally start living life at the ripe young age of almost dead.
I hate this movie. I certainly won’t be watching it again and I don’t plan on catching the already announced follow-up Treasure Buddies either. But I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying it.
If you’ve got a kid under five you probably own Spooky Buddies. I wouldn’t recommend watching it if you haven’t already produced a child because it will make you want one less. The thought of having to endure things like Spooky Buddies will overwhelm most normal humans who are not already entranced by the magical nature of parenthood.
Actually, we as a planet should start forcing non-parents between the ages of thirteen and forty to watch one of the Buddies movies at least once a year. I guarantee the population will be under control in less than a decade.

1 OUT OF 5 Soulless Canine Abominations

Just as a final point, I would choose to watch any three SyFy Original Movies over watching Spooky Buddies again.

I made this at the Official Disney Spooky Buddies website. I highly recommend you go there and make your own. It's very fulfilling. 

31 Days of Halloween vs. 31 Days of Halloween!
11:00 AM – 7:00 PM – Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files – Give this show a chance. If you can’t tolerate the douchey stars I can understand that, but if you can get past them it’s pretty darn interesting.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 4
7:00 PM – 10:00 PM – Ghost Hunters – Crap.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 1
10:00 PM – 11:00 PM – Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files – This is a new one.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 4
11:00 PM – 12:00 AM – Ghost Hunters
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 1
12:00 AM – 1:00 AM – Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files – A repeat of the new episode.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 4
1:00 AM – 3:00 AM – Ghost Hunters
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 1
3:00 AM – 5:00 AM – Goblin – In a perfect world this would be a biopic about the Italian prog-rock band Goblin. The one that did all the music for Argento and the original Dawn of the Dead. Sadly, we do not live in such a world and this is just another SyFy Original Movie.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2
5:00 AM – 8:00 AM – Paid Programming
Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 0
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files – A repeat of the new episode.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 4
9:00 AM – 11:00 AM – Wolvesbayne – Jeremy London is a werewolf. I’m just throwing that out there. My personal opinion. What if Jason is a vampire? That would tear the London family apart and definitely make Hollywood a lesser place.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 1
Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom

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