The Underdoggs

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

The Underdoggs
dir Charles Stone III
scr Danny Segal, Isaac Schamis
prd Kenya Barris, Calvin Broadus, Constance Schwartz-Morini, Mychelle Deschamps, Jonathan Glickman
with Snoop Dogg, Tika Sumpter, Mike Epps, George Lopez, Kal Penn, Jonigan Booth, Adan James Carrillo, Kylah Davila, Andrew Schulz, Kandi Burruss, Caleb CM Dixon, Alexander Michael Gordon
release US/UK 36.Jan.24
24/US MGM 1h36

sumpter epps lopez

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dogg, epps and the team
Gleefully foul-mouthed, this fast-talking comedy plays on the usual formula as a staggeringly selfish person finds redemption from rambunctious kids, Bad News Bears-style. While shouting inappropriate comments at children isn't remotely amusing, there's a striking authenticity to the profane dialog that reflects culture better than most movies. The plot never surprises, and an adult-aimed movie about kids has an audience problem. But as unchallenging entertainment, it does the trick.
In Los Angeles, former pro-football star Jaycen (Dogg) is living the high life, but his glory days are behind him, largely because of his foul-mouthed rants. His agent (Penn) advises him to do charity work even before a judge sentences him to community service in the neighbourhood where he grew up. There he runs into gun-toting childhood friend Kareem (Epps) as well as his ex-flame Cherise (Sumpter). To win her back, he offers to coach the football team her son Tre (Booth) plays on. And he turns to his old school coach (Lopez) for advice.
Loosely based the real-life Snoop Youth Football League, the movie sticks close to feel-good formula. With his designer wardrobe and flashy cars, Dogg has fun as a fish out of water in his old hood. Absurdly, Jaycen thinks he's a great role model, these kids are playing full-contact, head-crunching football, and a drunken pool party should worry some viewers. But there are nice touches that may inspire parents to drop the pious act with their kids. And the script acknowledges that, while audiences love to watch an underdog win, they are inspired by something different altogether.

Dogg goes full-in on Jaycen's happy misbehaviour while adding interesting levels as a guy who made it big but has examined everything that's wrong with his egomaniacal life. Without resorting to sentimentality or getting too deep, Dogg brings out some underlying ideas and emotions. Jaycen's journey is more than a little corny, but his connections with other characters, both kids and adults, are full of enjoyable moments. Sumpter is lovely in a thankless role, and Epps has fun chomping on the scenery.

While the film isn't particularly funny, there's something refreshing about adults and children interacting in such an unfiltered way, making the point that kids who talk like this aren't allowed to watch a movie like this. So it's a bit disappointing that the plot follows such a well-worn route. Thankfully the script doesn't belabour the expected finale, complete with the requisite extended final match between Jaycen's Underdoggs and their fiercest rival. It may not get us laughing or cheering, but makes a strong point.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 24.Jan.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall