Dear God, did Jason Lee get an enormous tax bill or something? First he ‘stars’ in the abomination that was Alvin and The Chipmunks, and now he’s voicing a canine superhero in this dog of a movie. What happened, Brodie?
Underdog is the story of a small and rather rubbish beagle (Lee) who is part of the bomb squad. (I’m not sure why, as all the rest of the sniffer dogs are Alsatians. Maybe it was part of some sort of diversity initiative.) Anyway, after causing havoc one too many times, Underdog runs away, and is captured by a mad scientist, Dr Simon Barsinister (Dinklage) and, in true superhero style, gains special powers after an accident. He is taken home by ex-cop turned security guard Dan Unger (Belushi) as a gift for his son Jack (Neuberger); the two have been estranged since the death of Dan’s wife, and he hopes that the dog will cheer Jack up.
Jack isn’t initially at all interested in having a dog, until he discovers that the dog, who Dan names Shoeshine, can talk and has amazing powers. Jack creates an alias, Underdog, designs a costume, and sends forth his canine chum to protect the citizens of Capitol City and in particular, a beribboned spaniel named Polly Purebread (Adams). But Barsinister was only injured in the accident, and he and his henchman Cad (Warburton) have more plots up their sleeve…
I quite liked the look of Underdog when I first saw the trailer; though I’d never seen the original cartoon; a superhero dog, what’s not to like? Well, sadly, it turns out, quite a lot. The film is just not interesting, clever, or funny enough, and even the crowd of kids I saw it with failed to laugh at its attempts at humour. There’s a lot of exposition, and not much fun, and the comic potential of the situation is, frankly wasted. The performances are stilted and the whole thing is sentimental and cheesy, The dog is cute, and the CGI excellent, but it can’t make up for the thin story and lazy script.
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