Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
A favorite of children and grownups alike for nearly 50 years, Underdog finally made his big screen debut in 2007 with a live-action film from Walt Disney pictures. While it’s not exactly what I’d call a grand success, it’s sure to please the under-8 set and maybe even put a smile on a few adult faces as well.
The story begins in Capital City, where we see our hero in his humble beginnings as a police dog. He’s not a very good one, as he leads his masters to a ham, which he mistakes for a bomb. Shunned by his co-workers (a trio of German Shepherds), he quits the force and begins a life on the streets. He is quickly abducted by Cad, the henchman of Simon Barsinister, a mad scientist who specializes in genetic manipulation. A madcap chase around the lab, coupled with a chemical spill and an explosion leads to the little dog gaining superpowers. He quickly escapes and is found by Dan Unger (played by Jim Belushi), an ex-cop who names the dog Shoeshine and takes him home to his son, hoping that their relationship, strained since the death of Dan’s wife, can be rekindled.
As it turns out, Shoeshine not only has superpowers, but he can also speak English. He forms a bond with the boy, Jack, who eventually convinces him to use his powers for good while Shoeshine convinces Jack to give his dad another chance. One shrunken sweater and torn towel later, Underdog is born and with him, a crime-fighting legacy. The rest of the film basically consists of a very generic plot that feels like it’s been recycled from a million previous children’s movies. I’m sure that if left to your own devices, you could probably figure it all out by reading the back of the DVD box. In fact, I’m sure that if you put 20 monkeys in a room filled with typewriters, eventually they would come up with the Underdog plot. It’s not too original.
That’s not to say it’s a bad movie. I’m a 31-year-old man. If I was a 7-year-old boy or girl who didn’t realize how derivative this film was, I’m sure I would find it to be very entertaining. I’m not a parent (yet – I’ve got one on the way in a couple months), but if I had a child who had an attention span long enough to sit still for an 80-minute movie, I would have no problem sitting down with them to watch this one. It’s certainly not offensive in any way, and it’s actually got a few decent, if clichéd, jokes. And honestly, who doesn’t love talking animals? Especially talking animals in little red sweaters and capes.
I would definitely recommend Underdog to any parent of young children, and to any adult who can set their standards fairly low and just enjoy a good talking dog/superhero movie.
The DVD also features bloopers, deleted scenes, a rap video that I didn’t watch, a little documentary about the dog who played Shoeshine/Underdog, and an episode of the old TV series.