Epic Movie (Re)Watch #225 - Underdog (2007)
Have I seen it before: Yes
Did I like it then: Yes.
Do I remember it: Yes.
Did I see it in theaters: Yes.
Was it a movie I saw since August 22nd, 2009: No.
1) Yes, I own Underdog. We were all young once and have made mistakes. Don’t judge me.
2) I have to admit the opening does pay nice homage to the original cartoon (in its inclusion of clips from the original cartoon). There are few things I will compliment in this film, so savor that.
3) This film is filled with so many cliches that MAYBE become SLIGHTLY more interesting because they involve dogs. For example: the idea of a rookie who screws up on the police force and departs in shame. You know, with a dog.
4) Jason Lee as Underdog is…Jason Lee as Underdog. There’s nothing particularly unique or interesting there. Jason Lee sort of sleep walks through the part (which is a shame because The Incredibles has shown he can be a MARVELOUS voice actor) because there’s nothing really there of interest from a writing standpoint. Some of the character’s more sarcastic moments are supported a bit by Lee, but otherwise it’s nothing worth singing about.
5) Peter Dinklage as Dr. Simon Barsinister.
So, Peter Dinklage is in this movie. And he’s actually…really interesting? And charming? In an Underdog movie? I can’t believe it, but it’s true! Dinklage is the sole beam of sunshine in an otherwise abysmal film. Because he’s Peter Dinklage! He’s charismatic and funny, ESPECIALLY when Barsinister loses his freaking mind. Crazy Peter Dinklage is awesome! Honestly if you ever want to watch ANY of this movie just watch the scenes with Peter Dinklage in them.
6) How a live action Underdog movie could be so painfully generic baffles me. Not only is it a generic talking dog movie, it’s a generic superhero movie! It rips off SO MUCH from the 2002 Spider-Man movie: powers through lab accident (which, in fairness, is a superhero cliche of its own), powers gained through a science-y dream montage, and powers discovered through “humorous” accidents. Except, you know, it’s a dog. Other cliches include a superhero montage and a “looking out over the city” shot. Had the film been aware of how ridiculous and stupid this concept is, had it taken the opportunity to work as a kid-friendly Deadpool and make fun of the superhero genre, that would be one thing. But it doesn’t seem aware of how painfully unoriginal is. Every character reacts to a superhero dog the exact same way people react to Spider-Man when he shows up. EXCEPT HE’S A DOG! The straight face the film teaches Underdog with is painful to watch. It’s just bad.
7) Oh look, Jake Unger: a cliché slacker teen who was originally written as a twelve year old but still behaves as a twelve year old so he’s just an unlikable douche bag. You know, he could succeed if only he applied himself! Unfortunately the actor they got to play Jake is…not great, to say the least. And Jake only exists so Underdog has a human friend/owner and so kids (supposedly) have someone to latch onto. And that is his only purpose in this film. At all.
8) Noooooo! Why!?!? Samantha Bee!!!! What are you doing in this movie!?!?!?!?
9) There are moments in the film where they TRY to pay homage to the classic cartoon (naming Underdog Shoeshine, the character of Riff-Raff, him taking a blue pill to get his powers at the end) but they completely miss the point for the most part. The original cartoon took place in a world where anthropomorphic animals and humans lived side by side, with Underdog typically causing more damage than helping people. A format like Mr. Peabody and Sherman would have much better served the story.
10) The beagle who plays Underdog is super cute though.
11) Amy Adams as Polly.
So you know how in most superhero movies there’s the pointless girlfriend who just exists to be in danger and for the superhero to fall in love with? You know how she’s typically underdeveloped and could totally be dropped from the film with no change whatsoever? Yeah, Underdog does that. But with a dog. And she’s voiced by Amy Adams. Why did Amy Adams say yes to this movie? I could not tell you. The ONE thing Polly did in the original cartoon was that she was a reporter, but now she doesn’t even do that. Her human counterpart Molly (real original thinking there, guys) is a high school reporter and equally if not more so useless. You could literally cute Polly and Molly out of the film and have there be no change whatsoever.
12) So while some of Jack’s interactions with Underdog border on cleverness, most if not all of this film’s humor just falls totally flat. Obvious, dumb, and just not funny.
13) There is a nice idea you can tell this film MAYBE considered doing which is exploring how Underdog’s derived name COULD lead to an emotional arc for him. How he’s the constantly underestimates underdog. Except the film doesn’t explore that beyond a few cliches.
14) Patrick Warburton is in this movie. And he’s not bad, in fact he’s second only to Peter Dinklage at being the best thing about the film. But he’s limited by the writing though. Patrick Warburton can be INSANELY funny, clever, and charming. But as Cad he doesn’t get much to do other than have some nice chemistry with Peter Dinklage.
15) So Jim Belushi’s character retired from the police force a hero but is consistently met with mockery and derision by cops throughout the movie?
16) NO ONE IS REACTING TO A TALKING SUPER DOG WHICH BURSTS THROUGH THE DOOR AND TALKS! AT ALL! ONE BAD GUY IS LIKE, “I’ll get him,” WITH NO HESITATION!
(GIF originally posted by @disney-gifs)
17) The rhyming in the original cartoon was charming. Here its overdone and annoying.
18) Remember how I said Molly is useless? Well, the one thing she MAYBE might do but doesn’t in the film is look into Underdog’s identity. She even has a crazy wall of weird and at the center of it is, “Who is Underdog?” Okay, two things:
- No high school newspaper is that good.
- WHO CARES WHO UNDERDOG IS!? HE’S A DOG! IT’S NOT LIKE HE HAS A WORTH WHILE SECRET IDENTITY! HE’S NOT GOING TO BE BRUCE WAYNE OR TONY STARK! HE’S A FREAKING DOG! THE ONLY THING HE DOES IS BE A SUPERHERO!
19) Usually I don’t nitpick the physics of a scene, but let’s consider that Underdog runs under an iron bar while Cad has him on a leash, and pulls Cad above the iron bar (crashing through some glass) while holding onto the leash. You’d think this iron bar would catch the leash now. Except somehow it magically phased through the iron bar and nothing happens.
20) Ugh, Underdog and Polly go on a stupid doggy date which does nothing to advance the plot before ripping off 1) the flying scene from Superman and 2) Lady and the Tramp.
Jim Belushi (yes, I’m calling him Jim Belushi): “You’re insane.”
Dr. Barsinister: “I prefer the term visionary.”
Peter Dinklage in this movie is great. Or at least, great by comparison.
22) Any time this film makes an attempt at emotional meaning or poignancy it just fails. Just simply fails.
23) That’s…that’s John Slattery as the Mayor. Why, John Slattery, why?
24) This line actually made me laugh.
Cad: “He’s not my boss, we’re partners!”
Molly: “Then why are you ding this?”
Cad: “Because my partner said he might fire me if I don’t!”
25) Wait…this is the bad guy plot from The Amazing Spider-Man. The villain wants to dispense a chemical bomb over the city to change people’s DNA.
26) The climax to this film is literally Underdog digging a hole in the ground to bury a bomb. That’s it. Ugh.
I can’t imagine this film ever being worth the watch. It doesn’t work as an adaptation of the cartoon, as a superhero film, or a talking dog film. If you like Peter Dinklage, if he’s your favorite actor ever, watch it for that. Because he’s pretty good. But otherwise? Not worth it, I don’t think.