Movie Review for Underdog (2007)


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Review #497 of 365
Movie Review of Underdog (2007) [PG] 84 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $10.00
Where Viewed: United Artists Colorado Mills Stadium 16 & Giant Screen, Lakewood, CO
When 1st Seen: 5 August 2007
Time: 2:35 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)
Film's Official WebsiteFilm's Trailer
DVD Release Date:18 December 2007 (click date to purchase or pre-order)

Soundtrack: Download now from Randy Edelman - Underdog (Original Soundtrack) - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Frederik Du Chau (Racing Stripes)
Screenplay by: Adam Rifkin (Zoom) • Joe Piscatella () • Craig A. Williams () based on television series by W. Watts Biggers

Featured Cast and Voice Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Jason Lee (Monster House) • Peter Dinklage (Find Me Guilty) • James Belushi (The Wild) • Patrick Warburton (Happily N'Ever After) • Alex Neuberger (Running Scared) • Taylor Momsen (Saving Shiloh) • Amy Adams (Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny) • John Slattery (Flags of Our Fathers) • Brad Garrett (Ratatouille)


Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
When Disney® started showing off trailers for its live action adaptation of Underdog, purists of the cartoon superhero were made nervous. Would the new film stick to the story of their beloved, caped, flying dog? Obviously, the dog they selected to be the 'live-action' underdog looked nothing like the cartoon version with his gold Labrador-like coat and black ears. Well, as the film turned out, fans of the original dog are either going to be disappointed or willing to warm up to Jason Lee's vocals, the altered physical appearance, and a slightly different costume for the new Underdog. The film starts off with a rendition of the opening song and some cartoon background to introduce people who don't know Underdog to his story. Personally, I really enjoyed this part for the shear nostalgia of it. Next up, we are in the corporate laboratory of mad (he prefers "eccentric") scientist Dr. Simon Barsinister (Peter Dinklage) and his trusty sidekick, Cad (Patrick Warburton) as they attempt to manipulate the DNA of various animals to combine them into making one super attack guard dog. Having just made a fool of himself as bomb-sniffing dog that caused the evacuation of City Hall over a ham, our hero finds himself humiliated and walking the back alleys of the city.

"… turns out looking more like a slightly souped-up Disney® Channel presentation…not an event picture…"
This is where he unfortunately is captured by Cad and taken to the research lab where he's targeted by Barsinister to be the next victim in his misguided experiments to prove to the mayor he's capable of producing the perfect dog. But, our hero doesn't take things lying down and escapes the injection which leads to a getaway scene involving him wreaking havoc on Barsinister's lab, getting covered with a gel that turns gives him superpowers, causing a giant projection screen to fall on Barsinister smashing him flat, and setting the entire lab on fire. He narrowly escapes, as do Barsinister and Cad with their lives—though we now know the source of the terrible scars on the cartoon Barsinister's head. Discovering he's got some differences in strength etc., he ends up getting hit and leaving a huge dent in the family station wagon of retired cop turned night watchman, Dan Unger (James Belushi). Dan gets out to rescue what he's sure will be a flattened dog, but discovers him fully intact and takes him home as a future pet for his rebellious teenage son, Jack (Alex Neuberger). Ever since Jack's mom died, it's been rough on both of them men of the house. Dan hopes the dog, whom he thinks should be called Shoeshine, will inspire a sense of responsibility in his son. What he does not know is that the Jack will discover Shoeshine's remarkable new superpowers and help turn him into Underdog.

Over the course of the invention of the signature 'U' costume and introduction to future girlfriend Ms Polly Purebread, Jack and Shoeshine bond as any good boy and his dog. This fulfills Shoeshine's life-long dream to be loved. Of course, among the most astonishing of Shoeshine's new abilities is that he can now talk to and understand Jack which makes for some amusing scenes of discovery for both. Jack encourages the reluctant Shoeshine to accept his superpowers and helps him to do good by solving crimes and capturing bad guys. Underdog eventually, in the process of testing out all of his powers and nabbing cat burglars for the police, also figures out his catch phrase, "There's no need to fear, Underdog is near." So, fans of the original cartoon can rest easy that most of the favorite elements of the original hero end up being utilized in the film. They may not be fond of the whole Underdog as a pet aspect, nor the contrived way in which this falls into place however. Needless to say, Barsinister's escape prep him to becoming Underdog's arch nemesis as he hopes to get his revenge on the dog and steal back his powers.

The film, in many ways, harkens back to a simpler time in the Disney® Studio's history when these types of movies were the mainstay: relatively wholesome, simple in values and principles, the kind of family film you can go to without worrying there will be unnecessary foul language, violence, or adult themes. The scene where Underdog gets his powers is a bit intense for young children under 5 or 6. Otherwise, younger kids will love this film about a talking, flying dog superhero. Grownups who grew on the Underdog paired with Mighty Mouse re-runs may feel the dog did not adapt as well to live action as they would have hoped but not mind that much. Director Frederik Du Chau knows how to pace a film to capture a kid's attention span. The actors, with the exception of Alex Neuberger, adopt mostly two-dimensional cartoon character personas. Peter Dinklage especially isn't half as menacing as the cartoon version of Barsinister, and James Belushi seems tired and lifeless most of the time. He is in mourning over the loss of his wife, giving up his career to ensure his son does not also lose his father, which account for some of this, but he's even more lifeless than this should cause. Alex Neuberger is happy and seems to be enjoying not only his character but the experience of being in the film. The role might have gone to a slightly younger actor in reality, but he does a good job nonetheless.

As far as an end-of-summer kids movie, Underdog delivers on most levels. There's nothing really earth shattering about the film, and one has to wonder if they might not have done better by making a new animated version, sticking more to the original storylines, and making more of an event picture rather than what turns out looking more like a slightly souped-up Disney® Channel presentation.


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Other Projects Featuring Underdog (2007)
Cast Members
Jason LeePeter DinklageJames Belushi
Patrick WarburtonAlex NeubergerTaylor Momsen
Amy AdamsJohn SlatteryBrad Garrett
Director
Frederik Du Chau
Writers
Adam RifkinJoe PiscatellaCraig A. Williams

Review-lite Underdog (2007) [max of 150 words]
Disney's Underdog harkens back to a simpler time in the studio's history when these types of movies were the mainstay: relatively wholesome, simple in values, the kind of family film you can go to without worrying there will be unnecessary foul language, violence, or adult themes. Director Frederik Du Chau paces the film to capture a kid's attention span. The actors, except Alex Neuberger, adopt two-dimensional cartoon character personas. Peter Dinklage isn't half as menacing as the cartoon version of Barsinister, and James Belushi seems lifeless most of the film. As far as an end-of-summer kids movie, Underdog delivers on most levels. One has to wonder, though, if they might not have done better by making a new animated version, sticking more to the original storylines, and making more of an event picture rather than what turns out looking more like a slightly souped-up Disney® Channel presentation.

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2 comments:

Show Me The Curry said...

We pretty much agree with your assessment of the movie. We have done a review of this movie on our blog and would like to share it with your readers.

Catherine said...

$9
For being a "U" fan from childhood, Underdog didn't hold up to standard for me.

Though it is something I would take my neice and nephew to see.

I guess I'm just one of those people that needs more suspense when it comes to superheros