From an alternate dimension where adapting a cartoon about a dog who fights crime and talks in rhymes into a live action film is a good idea comes Disney’s Underdog. Although talking animal movies have proven to be a lucrative business for Hollywood, we’re truly scraping the bottom of the idea barrel when we begin adapting cartoons from the 1960s. Fortunately for Disney and those who invested their time and effort into this film, anything Patrick Warburton is involved in is required, by law, to make you laugh at least once.
A rookie on the canine police force, our hero was booted off the team after barking, signaling a bomb threat. When the threat turned out to be ham, our hero was let go and eventually caught by a dog catcher. Thrown into mad scientist Dr. Simon Barsinister’s (Peter Dinklage) lab, our hero narrowly escaped a series of experiments, but not before he was doused in a series of mysterious chemicals that transformed him into a super powered canine. Once he escaped the lab, our hero was found on the street by Dan Unger (Jim Belushi), who took him home to his son Jack (Alex Neuberger). It was here they gave him the name “Shoeshine.”
I really had no plans to review this film, so when it showed up I just swallowed the dislike I had of it from the trailers and decided go into it fresh. It didn’t help one bit as the film still really sucked, even for a children’s film. It was so poorly put together that the discrepancies stuck out like a sore thumb. You’ll notice above I had to keep calling him “our hero”, simply because he had no name prior to being called Shoeshine. On top of that he’s based on a cartoon character that was actually a shoe shiner, as in he wasn’t a bet—our hero was actually downgraded when he got to this role.
Perhaps the film would’ve been more entertaining had it directly adapted the world the cartoon created. I mean any place where dogs can shine human’s shoes and make a living off of it must be entertaining to see and it’s certainly nothing I’ve seen in films before. But the simple route was expected, simply because that’s what had brought in money in the past.
I guess I shouldn’t hound the movie too badly, it really wasn’t written or directed to be anything overly ambitious. I’m sure kids will find it enjoyable, but aside from the random outbursts from Patrick Warburton and the occasional funny line from Underdog himself (even then I only laughed because of Jason Lee voicing him), there wasn’t much to laugh at in the film. I do love animals though, so I’ll admit I did still find the dogs chosen for this film to be incredibly cute.
In order to keep myself entertained through a film I knew I’d be bored by, I decided to keep a tally of all of the “potty” humor that the film would no doubt employ. Our first joke is, of course, a poop joke which is followed by a pee joke and so forth. Total we had three poop jokes (one of which was repeated twice more by two different characters), two butt jokes and one pee, burp and sex joke. Sadly, because I have the mind of an eight year old, I laughed at most of these.
In the end, Underdog is exactly a horribly executed film and it does have a fair share of comedians I enjoy watching, but it’s also not something you should make any real effort to see either. If you enjoy the talking animal movies then you’ll likely find this film marginally entertaining or you have kids, then you might give this film a Rental. Otherwise, just Skip It altogether.
This is, without a doubt, the most jam packed DVD I’ve had to review this entire year! Nah, I’m lieing, there’s not a whole lot here. The DVD, which comes in a white amaray case with an embossed foil reflective slipcover, has the usual Disney advertisements inside and a slip featuring the DVD info. The DVD itself sports art that mirrors the cover art and menus are animated with music over the main menu only. Video is in a surprising 2.35:1 aspect ratio (don’t think I’ve seen a scope usually reserved for big action films used in a children’s film before—which is probably why a 1.33:1 ratio is included on this release as well) and the audio is a, at times, forceful 5.1 mix.
For the extras we have a series of deleted scenes with intros (4:08) by director Frederik Du Chau, all of which is just more of what we got in the film itself, just a few extended scenes and few wholly dropped ones (one with a humorous line from Patrick Warburton—even his deleted scenes make me laugh). Next is “Sit. Stay. Act: Diary of a Dog Actor” (5:51), a faux “history” of Underdog. This extra is narrated by Jason Lee as Underdog and is told as if the movie was based on true events. Bloopers (1:36) are included, as is some “Underdog Raps” (2:40) music video, which, I’m sure you can imagine, I greatly enjoyed.
The final extra on the set and perhaps the oddest, is the “Safe Waif – The First Underdog Cartoon Episode” (4:57). This isn’t to say the inclusion of it was strange, the film was based on the cartoon series, after all, but the way the cartoon is presented here is the oddity. As can be expected from animation from the 60s, the cartoon is in a 4:3 ratio, but on this DVD it’s put inside of an anamorphic 16×9 box, with black bars on left and right. For a DVD with extras in 4:3, it’s incredibly strange that they chose this one thing to be in an anamorphic ratio. Very, very strange.
Overall the DVD release for Underdog fits the film: quick, not much heart and easily forgettable. Skip it.
Underdog is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.