A film like Underdog is best defined by its complete lack of distinction. Sans its pilfering from the original 1960s NBC animated series, there isn’t a molecule of creativity present to distinguish it from the likes of the Garfield and Scooby-Doo movies. Though the film retains the same—ahem—underdog formula you’ve no doubt seen dozens of times before (one wonders how much actual writing the credited screenwriters had to do, or how long it took to do it), it remains underwhelming even according to such bland standards. Plot threads are developed and resolved in a matter of moments, dramatic clichés are recycled with minimal concern for their delivery, and an Underdog “U” symbol serves as the visual transfer between a number of completely unrelated scenes; though Underdog was probably doomed to assembly-line aesthetics from the start, its half-assed construction is nothing short of startling. After quitting his disastrous occupation as a bomb detector, the titular canine (voiced by Lee) is captured for laboratory testing by the mad, err, “visionary” Dr. Simon Barsinister (an amusing Peter Dinklage), the results of which imbue him with a range of superpowers. After escaping his captor, the pup finds his way into a human family with ex-cop Dan Unger (James Belushi) and his son Jack (Alex Neuberger), and is soon on the rise to fame and glory when he learns to properly channel his newfound gifts as a means of helping those in need. Though the film was never on the path to greatness, its admirable aim to please an audience of all ages would have been a point worth praise were its built-in moral lessons and character arcs believable in the slightest. Moods and allegiances shift on a dime, and it takes but a finely tuned word of wisdom to mend the cracks of a broken family. Underdog might preach the virtues of selflessness and courage, but it doesn’t want to instill these values into its youthful demographic—it’s content with babysitting them for 80 minutes.
- Walt Disney Pictures
- 84 min
- Frederik Du Chau
- Adam Rifkin, Joe Piscatella, Craig A. Williams
- Jason Lee, Alex Neuberger, Peter Dinklage, James Belushi, Amy Adams, Patrick Warburton, Taylor Momsen, John Slattery, Samantha Bee, Brad Garrett, Timothy Crowe
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