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Monday, October 8, 2012

Underdog (2007)

Right off the top the movie makes a huge mistake by starting with clips from the original cartoon. Some one should have told the filmmakers that it’s not too good an idea to remind the few fans of the show that might be in the audience of what they’re not going to be seeing over the course of the next 84 minutes. Now from seeing the trailers I knew I was in for, but as Underdog was one of my childhood favorites I had too see just how bad they were going to muck it up. With director Fredrick Du Chau (Racing Stripes and Quest for Camelot) and the writer Adam Rifkin (Zoom) I certainly wasn’t expecting Batman Begins or even Ghost Rider, but even with lowered expectations this film still managed to surprise me on its level of lameness.

The movie starts off with the Mayor giving a speech about all the unsolved crimes in Capital City and points to a massive pile of boxes containing all the case files. A little police beagle smells something and barks, this cause everyone to assume there is a bomb in the box and to go into full on panic mode as people trample over each other to escape. Of course it’s revealed that the box in question contained nothing but a piece of meat, a gift from the Pork Association. In disgrace the poor beagle, with the other police dogs laughter in his ears, leaves the force. It’s while wandering the streets in depression that he is abducted and taken to the labs of Simon Bar Sinister (Peter Dinklage) where he and his sidekick Cad (Patrick Warburton) experiment on dogs for some strange plan to create super animals to replace normal police dogs. The cute beagle of course doesn’t want to be jabbed with a genetic cocktail and while trying to escape his pursuers he gets a whole rack of genetic chemicals (apparently DNA comes in liquid form) dumped over him and thus Underdog is born.
The beagle flees the lab and shortly there after runs into Dan Unger (Jim Belushi), or more accurately Dan runs over the dog. Dan happens to work as a security guard for the company that houses Simon Bar Sinister’s lab, now he was a hero cop before taking up security but he quit that job when his wife died so that he wouldn’t end up making his kid an orphan one day. Dan thinks maybe a dog will help his son get over all that dead mother stuff and brings him home. The beagle, for some inexplicable reason, keeps licking Dan’s shoes so he is given the name Shoeshine. This is of course referring to Underdog’s alter ego Shoeshine Boy from the cartoon.
Jack (Alex Neuberger) isn’t too keen on having a dog and is more than willing to let his dad take it to the pound, but once he finds out it can talk and has superpowers things change, and later after Shoeshine saves Molly (Taylor Momsen) from muggers, Molly being a girl that Jack has the hots for, Jack decides that Shoeshine is a superhero. Now Shoeshine is still dealing with the whole inferiority complex of being an incompetent police dog and so only wants to be a normal dog, but Jack convinces him too don the costume and truly become Underdog.
Meanwhile having had their lab destroyed during the creation of Underdog Simon Bar Sinister and Cad have moved into sewers to set up shop, and to finance his further experiments Cad enlists some goons to knock over a jewelry shop. Underdog of course saves the day but Cad escapes. Now Simon Bar Sinister wants Underdog so he can use his DNA to create super dogs (once again he really doesn’t seem to have an evil plan just evil methods), and after a really lame attempt by Cad to capture Underdog they do manage to get his collar, and with the address from the collar the villains head on over and kidnap Dan. Jack and Shoeshine race to the rescue…or would if the two actually had any brains as all Jack does is provide a second hostage. Not being able to save both Jack and Dan the brave little beagle gives himself up to Simon Bar Sinister’s evil experiments (why a dog that can fly around the world in second can’t defeat a little person and his moronic sidekick as fast is never explained) Underdog’s DNA is extracted and from that the mad scientist creates two types of pills, one gives you super powers and the other makes you normal (this is another reference to the cartoons as Underdog got his powers from super vitamin pills that he kept in his ring and which gave him the power of twenty atom bombs for twenty seconds). Simon Bar Sinister forces Underdog to take one of the pills that rob him of his power and then gives three German Sheppards the power pills and along with the Cad they storm the steps of City Hall.
What nefarious demands will Simon Bar Sinister make? Will Underdog get his powers back? Can Dan retake the mantle of Hero Cop? Will Jack learn the true meaning of Christmas? And when oh when will they stop making favorite cartoons into lame-o live action movies?

There is one name I haven’t mentioned yet and that is of actor Jason Lee who provides the voice of Shoeshine/Underdog, and I’d say not having his face associated with this film was a brilliant career decision but then I’ve seen the trailer for Alvin and the Chipmunks so I know he isn’t actually interested in good career moves. Casting wise he isn’t the worst choice but he certainly isn’t the persona I think of when I think of Underdog, and really who could compete with Wally Cox who voiced the character in the original cartoon. Both Peter Dinklage and Patrick Warburton manage to put in decent performances and don’t completely embarrass themselves, but any scene involving James Belushi would be a good time for you to make that popcorn run or bathroom break.

In all fairness this film is clearly aimed at eight your olds and going by the reaction of the kid sitting three seats down from Underdog is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if you are an adult, or even remotely a fan of the sixties cartoon, please stay away for your own good.

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