The Entire 'Animal Plays Sports' Genre Is Dominated By One Man
How much can you milk out of the phrase, "There's nothing in the rulebook that says a dog can't play basketball?" If you're Robert Vince, then the answer to that question is an entire filmmaking empire. See, you probably have heard of or have seen Air Bud before, the story of a young boy who finds a dog that can play basketball (and how clowns get screwed at every turn by the legal system.)
And you probably have even heard of (though definitely have not seen) many of the subsequent sequel films that Air Bud has spawned, like Air Bud: Golden Receiver and Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch. But you definitely, definitely didn't realize just how many of them existed. It's a shit ton - a dogshit ton maybe more appropriately - and they're all produced by Robert Vince.
Let me try and explain the scope of this: Marvel has currently made 23 superhero films. They pretty much have dominated the genre, right? Well, Robert Vince has at least 24 films in the "pet learns to play sports good" genre, and that's not counting his new TV series Pup Academy.
The wrestling dog one should have been called Poocha Libre.
This guy is Kevin Feige with a dog leash, but maybe even more prolific and certainly more insane. Seriously, it takes a special kind of person to see this scene:
And think, "Yep, I'm going to do this for the rest of my life now."
What's amazing to me is that the original Air Bud wasn't even Vince's idea. The concept was brought to him by a friend whose dog was featured on America's Funniest Home Videos. They made the movie, it did fairly well, and then Vince just basically took over, knowing a cash-pup when he saw one. From there, he cranked out a staggering 14 Air Bud sequels and spinoffs, a new franchise titled MVP: Most Valuable Primate, and a bunch of one-offs that would make you rethink the invention of film altogether.
It's hard to know how to feel about this guy. On the one hand, it's kind of hilarious that this man has spent the past 20+ years trying to wring camera-worthy performances out of dogs and monkeys without ever thinking to himself, "hmm, I wonder if I'm ready to transition back into filming people." (If he does, at least have him start with Andy Serkis.)
But, on the other hand, I kind of want to say kudos to him. He found a formula, and it works. Sure, there have been some setbacks. Apparently, there was a "puppy killing virus" on the set of Snow Buddies, for example, and Vince has had some legal trouble from those who have claimed he stole his ideas from other films. I also can't imagine the pure concentrated stench of Alpo that must cling to his clothes. Still, you gotta give him props. He's an entire genre unto himself, and there's nothing in the rulebook against that.
Top Image: Buena Vista Pictures