film reel image

film reel image

Friday, June 2, 2023

American Underdog 2021 * * 1/2 Stars


As a guy who watches an immense amount of NFL football, I couldn't help but be amazed at the story of Kurt Warner. Kurt went undrafted and when he couldn't get a pro team to sign him, he ended up stocking shelves at a grocery store in Iowa. Now Warner is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after winning a Super Bowl, playing in two more, and becoming a two-time, National Football League MVP. 2021's American Underdog is a biographical flick about this real-life, victim/hero. You watch it and think, maybe said hero deserved a more epic tribute.

American Underdog runs 112 minutes. Its story minus the romance factor (Warner and wife Brenda), is pretty straight-forward, like almost identical to Kurt's wiki page. "Underdog" is also directed by two people in brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin. Andrew and Jon opt for a glossy look, a miscast Dennis Quaid (as coach Dick Vermeil), and some Disney undertones (even though the film's distributor is Lionsgate). They go for the schmaltz too but their "Underdog" never feels compelling enough or old-world like say, Rudy (another flick about weaker sports parties).

Then there's the football scenes of aw-shucks Kurt (played by Zachary Levi) flinging the pigskin around and getting hit like a brick at the same time. There's not enough of them and they feel pedestrian, like Levi just nonchalantly made some nifty plays. I mean where's the struggle in the pocket? And where's the grit? And where's the nasty, gridiron optics that Jack "Cap" Rooney went through? Nada, no where to be found.

Bottom line: if you want to gather the family around, make some popcorn, and ogle at a few dewy-eyed moments between a QB legend, his in the cards plight, and his loyal lady, then American Underdog is the movie for you. If you want something more than a feel-good, TV-like vehicle transitioning on the come up, well you won't have a "dog" in this fight. Natch.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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