By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
After watching the trailer to this movie, a longtime friend and fellow movie buff griped that this film looks like a television movie of the week. While that description is not completely true, American Underdog comes pretty close to being just that. However, the decent writing, solid direction and performances by the lead cast members help keep this movie from wallowin in such banal territory. That said; the movie isn’t exactly the most exceptional or remarkable sports movie about an underdog, but has an undeniably heartffelt and exciting true story that is inspirational and rather crowd-pleasing.
Zachary Levi stars as real-life football legend Kurt Warner. Though Warner eventually made a name for himself in the NFL, his journey to this status required much heart and determination. Since a child, Warner has dreamed of becoming a star quarterback for a championship football team. From his humble beginnings, he manages to play well enough in high school and college, but it would take much tenacity to gain the attention of the NFL. Warner would have to take a break from football during his post-collegiate years, but worked hard to support his family and endured some hardship along the way. After a successful stint in the Arena football league, he finallly earns the attention he deserves and is given the opportunity to prove himself in America’s big show as a quarterback for the St. Louis Rams.
Directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin, with writing by Jon Erwin, David Aaron Cohen, and Jon Gunn, American Underdog proves to be a mostly compelling movie, though it is a journey that is familiar in structure and style. To be honest and real, the result is a movie that would be suitable for television, but is nevertheless a film that is worth watching and enjoying. As I screened this film in a theater, I still enjoyed what it has to offer, and had I actually paid for my ticket, I would have been okay with what I experienced. The movie has enough great material involving Warner’s personal struggles to make his journey relatable and impactful. There is a certain level of schmaltz that people should expect from a story of this nature, but this trait never completely derails the story.
What certainly helps is that the lead actors Levi and Anna Paquin perform their hearts out and do so in some very realistic and natural ways. They both perform beautifully together and credibly portray two souls struggling to get what they want out of life. The other actors offer competent enough turns, but some of them come across as less dimensional. American Underdog also stars Dennis Quaid, Chance Kelly, Cindy Hogan, Ser’Darius Blain, Adam Baldwin, Bruce McGill, and others who perform well enough, but don’t necessarily stand out.
While I enjoyed this movie overall, it is a movie that I would recommend my readers to watch when it is available for rental/streaming via a digital source. That doesn’t mean I think it is a bad movie, but American Underdog is not a movie that demands to be watched on a theatrical screen.