American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Are there ever movies you just hate the idea of going to see?'' Yes, I say, there are--but sometimes I'm surprised. It happened again the other night. I dragged myself down to a multiplex to attend a sneak preview of a movie named "Air Bud.'' I had seen the trailer, and knew it was about a dog who could play basketball. I was not impatient to see this movie.
I began to have stirrings of hope in the opening scenes, which involved an obnoxious and possibly drunken clown making a fool of himself at a children's party. His act was called "Clown and a Hound,'' and the dog seemed smarter and nicer than its master, and probably smelled better.
On the highway, the dog's cage bounces out of the clown's pickup, and through a series of adventures the dog makes friends with the young hero of the movie, Josh (Kevin Zegers). Josh has just moved to a small town with his mother (Wendy Makkena) and kid sister. (His father, a test pilot, has been killed in a crash, following the ancient Disney tradition that one dead parent is nice, and an orphan for a hero is best of all).
Josh is lonely and depressed in the new town, and is an outcast at the junior high school, although eventually he gets to be the "manager'' of the basketball team. Could he be a player? He lacks the confidence to try out, although he practices for long hours in an abandoned court he's discovered behind an old church. (The church's notice board carries the ominous legend, "eek an ye shal fin.'') Josh names the dog Buddy. This is some dog. It has the ability to enter Josh's second-floor bedroom by jumping on a car, climbing a rose trellis, walking across the roof, and jumping in the window. And on the basketball court it turns out to be a star. Pass Buddy the ball, and it can bounce it with its nose and make a basket (it doesn't miss once in the entire movie).