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Underdog

I tend to get pretty irritated at movies that are made – or at least titled – for no good reason. The thought of a live-action version of Underdog isn’t an awful concept, but how it eventually came to fruition is. In Disney’s live-action version of Underdog, they trample over the good name of the cartoon. Instead of a loveable shoe-shine boy who is secretly the rhyming superhero, they give us a watered down, DCOM style film.

Instead of telling the story of a canine superhero, it tells the story of an awkward teenage boy who discovers a beagle who has been given miraculous powers from a failed experiment. The dog is voiced by Jason Lee, whose narration makes you think you’re in a bad episode of My Name Is Earl throughout much of the film. And while the loveable Amy Adams voices Polly Pureheart, she’s only dropped in occasionally during the film.

Still, Underdog as a film is not totally worthless. It’s a winner with kids, as is anything with a talking dog. And if it wasn’t called Underdog and was just called SuperMutt or something innocuous like that, I might have warmed up to the film more. However, it was clear they were cashing in on Underdog’s good name and had no intention of making a decent Underdog film.

Maybe things wouldn’t have been so bad if they didn’t use the catch phrases from the cartoon, have updated music with the same themes or wouldn’t have shown a clip from the old cartoon as the opening of the film, all of which might have led the viewer to believe it would be a honorable adaptation.

The DVD isn’t a total waste for the kids, at least, and with a release so close to Christmas, it might see a sales bump. There are a nice assortment of special features, including deleted scenes, bloopers, a Kyle Massey Underdog rap (which could have been called Underdawg) and several imbedded selections in the movie that can be activated with your remote during the film.

One of the best features, which also serves to kill the movie in a way, is the original Underdog cartoon Safe Well. This is a breath of fresh air for anyone who wishes to see the original Underdog without the Disney spin. Still, you might be better off buying or renting the Underdog cartoon series.

Grade: C

The Upside: The movie’s short.

The Downside: Another cartoon made into crap.

On the Side: Dogs can’t fly, but they will stay airborne if you throw them hard enough.

Release Date: December 18, 2007
Rated: PG
Running Time: 180 minutes
Number of Discs: 1
Cast: Jason Lee, James Belushi, Patrick Warburton
Directors: Frederik Du Chau
Studio: Walt Disney Home Video

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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