Who needed Batman this past weekend?

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Underdog (2007) – Trailer
“Underdog Raps” by Kyle Massey
“Underdog Theme (1964)
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Well, the big crowds scared me away from the theaters this past weekend, so I missed all the Dark Knight action. It’s ok, I’ll go see it this week sometime when the crowds subside a bit. So with superheroics on my mind, I took the opportunity to pop in a DVD I had bought a while ago: the big screen adaptation of Underdog from 2007. While I don’t think the film is highly regarded, it made a modest $ 44 million at the box office and was quickly forgotten. Being a big oldschool Underdog fan, I had picked up the DVD with every intention of watching it but never did.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised that this movie wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared and nowhere near as bad as its reputation. Actually, i think it was pretty good in a lot of ways. It’s actually very faithful to most of the Underdog legend, and the filmmakers actually put effort into explaining a lot of the details from the animated series and have it all make sense.

Covered in the movie include references to, and explorations & explanations of:

  1. Underdog’s secret identity as “humble and lovable Shoeshine Boy”
  2. Why he chose the name “Underdog” as his superhero identity
  3. Underdog’s love interest “Sweet Polly Purebread” & “Where oh where can my Underdog be?”
  4. Why Underdog speaks in rhyme, but Shoeshine has no such limitations on his speech
  5. The origin and development of Underdog’s catch phrase, “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here!”
  6. Underdog causes significant property damage during his exploits
  7. The secret of Underdog’s Energy Pill
  8. Shoeshine changes into Underdog in an exploding phone booth
  9. Underdog stops to explain to a crowd that he is “not plane, nor bird, nor even frog, just little old me: Underdog”
  10. Consistent with the original animated series, the main villains are the mad scientist Simon Bar-Sinister and his henchman, Cad.
  11. How the mad scientist Simon Bar-Sinister is deformed and why hates Underdog
  12. Underdog inhabits a world where humans and talking animals interact
  13. A couple of appearances by Underdog’s enemy, Riff Raff

There are more references and homages to the original series, which was great to see. It was all worked into the narrative very well. Indeed, I think Underdog was a lot more faithful to the source material than a movie like Superman Returns.

The thing to keep in mind when watching Underdog is that it is primarily a children’s movie. That’s not to take anything away from the film, but it helps to put it in context when you watch it. It’s a mean trick to appeal to both kids and the kid inside every adult, and Underdog certainly tries to meet that standard.

Speed of lightning, roar of thunder!

A bomb sniffing dog (voice of Jason Lee) for the poiice department of Capitol City is a complete washout in his chosen career field. After being embarrassed for the last time, he takes off in shame, only to be captured as a stray dog. Turns out he isn’t going to the pound, but to the laboratory of the Dr Simon Bar-Sinister (Peter Dinklage), who is bent on unholy research into animal DNA and gene splicing. Before the dog is subjected to his experiments, he attempts an escape, only to be accidentally bathed in a strange mixture of Bar-Sinister’s chemicals. The dog manages to flee, but a fire destroys the lab. Bar-Sinister and his henchman Cad (Patrick Wharburton) escape.

A security guard (Jim Belushi) at the lab picks up the dog thinking he is a stray, and takes him home as a present for his son Jack (Alex Neuberger), naming the pup ‘Shoeshine.’ Jack quickly finds out that not only is the dog now capable of human speech, but blessed with super powers! In no time, the dog adopts the superhero identity “Underdog.”

The movie pits Underdog against Bar-Sinister and Cad. Both Dinklage and Wharburton really shine here, really having fun with their characters. The cgi is excellent, really among the best I have ever seen. Underdog is a fun and funny movie for kids of all ages – anyone expecting great cinema is looking in the wrong place, but if you are an Underdog fan (like me), just kick back and have some fun with it. I give Underdog 3 stars out of 5.

Somehow the film got a PG rating, which just goes to show you how dumb the movie rating system is. No foul language to speak of and some cartoon violence add up to a “G” in my book, but what do I know?

To right this wrong with blinding speed!

I have included a video of the theatrical trailer to Underdog (2007) to give you a feel for the movie, as well as a music video of Kyle Massey’s “Underdog Raps,” which is featured in the film. “Underdog Raps” is an updated version of Underdog’s classic theme song. This is all part of the marketing of the film to young kids glued to The Disney Channel on their tvs, but it does demonstrate that even a rap update can’t ruin Underdog’s classic theme song!

For good measure, I included the opening of the Underdog (1964) tv series, featuring the classic theme and several of the characters who made it into the film adaptation. Enjoy!