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  • Nate Adams

'The Underdoggs' review: Profane sports comedy fumbles its premise


Courtesy of Prime Video

 

“The Underdoggs,” a sports comedy cut from the same cloth as “Bad News Bears” and “Hardball” and features Snoop Dogg in a rare leading performance, begins with a disclaimer about how the movie contains strong language that could be “offensive” and then goes on to say children are basically worse than adults as it pertains to swearing. That statement isn’t wrong, though if your idea of hilarity is watching sixth graders infuse every other sentence with an F-bomb because, well, they can, “The Underdoggs,” a movie that’s supposed to be about a youth football team making a championship run, is for you. 


Nevermind the football part, this movie isn’t interested in showing how teams overcome adversity with good leadership and, frankly, it’s because Dogg doesn’t radiate the type of crass, leading man warmth of past cinematic coaches (Walter Matthau, Emilo Estavez, or Keanu Reeves) nor does the script, inspired by Dogg’s real life football league, allow him the platform to display genuine emotion. Most of the football sequences are spliced into speedy montages that fail to elevate the film’s stakes and it doesn’t help Dogg’s character, and the way he portrays it, seems lost on autopilot. At least it’s not afraid to call out how derivative it is, as the characters are quick to note how oddly their story resembles “The Mighty Ducks.” Flag on the play! 


Dogg plays Jaycen “Two Js” Jennings, a washed-up professional athlete desperately trying to stay relevant. Most of his days are spent yelling obscenities at his agent (played briefly by Kal Penn) and dissing internet trolls on Twitter. One of these meltdowns leads to a major accident wherein Jaycen Jennings is sentenced to community service, which eventually leads him to the scrappy young football team in desperate need of a coach. At first, he takes the gig to help rehabilitate his image, and, of course, as the film progresses, he grows a fondness for the little guys. It’s a premise recycled hundreds of times in the pantheon of sports movies, but “The Underdoggs” lacks much of the charm and jokes of past inspirations to push it anywhere near the end zone. 


Dogg can sling vulgarities with a slick cadence, but most of his quips don’t have a punchline and, unfortunately, the rapper isn’t the most skilled comedic performer to salvage the small sample size of jokes that occasionally land (at least his co-star, played by Mike Epps intermittently hits the mark). “The Underdoggs” lacks conviction and fails at establishing the children’s personalities or their quirks. A scene where they chug beers while the adults are distracted is a welcome addition, though it shows up too late in the movie to make you forget how dull it’s been prior to this point. In fact, it feels like an act of desperation in a movie filtered with half-handed lessons about the importance of community, ego’s, and teamwork. Which is even more ironic coming from director Charles Stone III, whose “Drumline” seemed to understand those fundamentals with ease. 


And by the time “The Underdoggs” arrives at the big game, without any recollection of how it even got there, there’s nothing left to hold onto other than the idea of a movie whose premise was fumbled the moment it started. 


Grade: D+ 


THE UNDERDOGGS streams on Prime Video Friday, January 26th.


2 comments

2 Comments


iticianset
Jun 06

Sounds like 'The Underdoggs' struggled to find its footing. It's tough when a film relies too heavily on recycled tropes without adding anything new or memorable. snake game

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Eddy Smith
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May 18

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