..

UNDERDOG

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jim Belushi, Peter Dinklage, Alex Neuberger, John Slattery, Patrick Warburton, voices of Jason Lee, Amy Adams, Brad Garrett
Director:  Frederik du Chau
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Pan & Scan 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  82 Minutes
Release Date:  December 18, 2007

“This is WAY better than sticking your head out of a moving car!”

Film ***

Not bird, nor plane, nor even frog…it’s the live action version of Underdog.

Underdog was a cartoon favorite of mine as a kid, but now the good folks at Disney have seen fit to give him a reality check…namely, to star him in a movie for real.  He’s a loveable beagle, loyal and true, and sounds a lot like Jason Lee, and his film debut is a delightful rib-tickler.

Before becoming a hero, our stalwart pup is living a dog’s life.  He loses his job as a police dog because his nose isn’t very accurate, and ends up in the custody of one Simon Barsinister (Dinklage) and his slow witted henchman Cad (Warburton).  Barsinister is an evil scientist with plans to alter dogs’ DNA to allow for enhanced powers.

An accident sets our regal beagle free, but not before a few changes start to occur.  He ends up in the custody of the lab’s good security guard Dan Unger (Belushi), who brings him home to his moody son Jack (Neuberger).  The dog’s propensity for licking shoes earns him the name Shoeshine.

But, imagine Jack’s (and Shoeshine’s) surprise when they both find out that Shoeshine can talk.  Not only that, but he has super speed, strength, and can fly, though not very gracefully.  Soon, the reluctant Shoeshine ends up saving the pretty pup Polly Purebred (voice of Adams) and her owner, and Jack realizes that destiny has great things in store for the little guy.

With the new name of Underdog, an improvised costume, and having a secret identity to protect himself, Shoeshine becomes a one-canine crime fighting force and a hero to an adoring public.  As he states, nothing could mess things up, unless there was a mad scientist bent on revenge.  Ahem.

Using convincing CGI to create the illusion that the dogs speak for themselves, Underdog is a funny, breezy romp with plenty of comic action and zingers.  The cast is terrific, starting with Jason Lee, who with this and his turn in Alvin and the Chipmunks seems to be re-inventing himself as an actor.  Peter Dinklage and Patrick Warburton couldn’t have been more perfectly cast as the villains.  And the dog?  Well, he’s just great.  Get his agent on the phone, stat.

With movies like this and Enchanted, Disney still rules the roost when it comes to entertainment the whole family can enjoy.  Kids will love Underdog and his antics, but grownups will have plenty to chuckle about, too.  My fiancée and I both laughed loud and hard at this movie.  Part of Disney’s magic is the ability to take something formulaic and make it into something that truly entertains.

Underdog is such a movie.  It proves every dog has his day…ooh, I just got that in under the wire.

Video ***1/2

Nothing to bark at here…Disney’s anamorphic transfer is bright, crisp and colorful, with solid details and images throughout.  My only complaint is you have to be careful with the “Fast Play” option; it keeps defaulting to the pan & scan presentation, and once it starts, you can’t seem to select widescreen without removing and re-inserting the disc.

Audio ***1/2

Underdog flies, and so does the 5.1 audio…there’s plenty of zip, comedy and action to keep the soundtrack full, dynamic and employing all the speakers of your surround.

Features ***

The disc includes a blooper reel (mighty cute), three deleted scenes with optional commentary, the “Underdog Raps” video by Cory in the House star Kyle Massey, a look at the training of the dogs, and the original Underdog cartoon episode “Safe Waif”.

Summary:

With a solid cast, impressive effects and plenty of slapstick and cute wit, Underdog delivers for the young and the old…a perfect slice of family fare.

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com