a critiQal film review Underdog (2007)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: After an accident in the lab of maniacal scientist Dr. Simon Barsinister (Dinklage), an ordinary beagle unexpectedly finds himself with unimaginable powers and the ability to speak. When a sinister plot by Barsinister and his overgrown henchman Cad (Warburton) threatens his town, only Underdog can save the day...and possibly win the love of spaniel Polly Purebread (Adams).

665 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 19s)

Since I grew up watching the cheesy cartoon version of “Underdog,” I was interested in seeing the live-action movie, but I was also a little worried. After all, I also grew up with “Garfield” holiday specials and the comic strip, and look how that live-action fiasco turned out! Would this live-action version be just as bad, or would Disney be able to bring everyone’s favorite crime fighting dog to brilliant life?

Fans of Jay and Silent Bob should be happy with Jason Lee’s sudden career rise. After starting off in Mallrats, he went on to join Jay and Silent Bob for 4 more films (Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back and ), making him one of the most recognizable bit players in the Jay and Silent Bob films. Then, his career skyrocketed when he was picked to play the title character in the wildly popular TV series “My Name Is Earl”.

But, his true talent lies in voice acting, and he proves that once again with Underdog. Voicing the title character – who goes by the name of Shoeshine when not in superhero mode – Jason Lee manages to bring an excitement and sarcasm to the role, making the dog not only interesting but incredibly funny. He seems perfectly suited for voice acting, and fans of “Earl” and the Jay and Silent Bob films should be able to jump into the movie wholeheartedly, and let Jason’s voice lead them on a comical adventure.

While some of the actual human actors (among them Peter Linklage and Jim Belushi) make the film seem more made-for-TV than an actual feature film, there are a couple of suprises (aside from the voice of Jason Lee) that help heighten the film.

Among them is Patrick Warburton, who – after getting his big break playing an outrageously funny character named Puddy in “Seinfeld” – has managed to become THE voice for animation. In Underdog he does go back to playing a non-animated human character, so the effect isn’t as funny, but with his shock of crazy white hair and his antics on-screen, he’s almost as animated in Underdog as he is in films like and .

Alex Neuberger also turns in a surprisingly decent performance as Shoeshine’s owner, and does a decent job of acting and reacting to the dog – and the voice of Jason Lee. Amy Adams also gets to put in her two cents as the voice of Polly, another dog. With her recent fame thanks to the Disney hit , that’s just an added bonus.

The special effects are very impressive, especially for what seems, at first, to be essentially a kid’s movie. Whether Underdog is flying through the air at breakneck speed, or Shoeshine is simply sitting around having a conversation with his owner, there isn’t a flaw to be seen anywhere. That’s especially important in a film like Underdog, where the viewer has to be able to believe in a superhero talking dog to make the film work. While talking dogs aren’t new in films, flying dogs are a lot less common. With Underdog, they’ve been able to pull off both the talking and the flying with enough gusto to make both entirely believable.

With a simplistic plot that, at times, is outrageously ridiculous, Underdog seems to be aiming at kids. This could have been a bad thing, as a lot of fans of the old series aren’t exactly kids anymore. Sure, it gets the kids to flock to theaters, but what about the fans of the original?

Thankfully, with the addition of Lee’s voice, Patrick Warburton, Alex Neuberger, and a voice appearance from sudden sensation Amy Adams, Underdog should satisfy fans of the original while drawing in a newer generation of fans at the same time.

Whether you are a fan of the cheesy television show or not, if you’re looking for an entertaining hour-and-a-half of a film that your kids can actually watch with you, you could do a whole lot worse than Underdog.

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