Underdog
R1 - America - Disney
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (27th January 2008).
The Show

Some shows should never make the leap to the big screen, and this is doubly true for cartoon shows making the transition to live-action. 'Underdog' was a spoof of superheroes, with the hero always leaving a trail of destruction far bigger than any bad guy could ever hope to achieve. This was a very sly comment on existing superheroes, and it helped the shorts work on a couple of levels. Unfortunately, unless you go for a cartoony feel, a live-action version of this movie simply won't work, because the realistic setting takes away any satiric nature the movie may have, unless, of course, the direction is razor-sharp and humour subtle with a witty script.

Unfortunately, this movie has none of these things. The movie never really has much of a cartoon feel and the physics are relatively natural, so when Underdog crashes through a building or breaks apart a phone booth, it just seems like needless destruction. In these sequences, there's no real comedy. The movie has plenty of slapstick that would work for the younger set, but doesn't contain enough originality for old timers who remember The Three Stooges and Larry Semon.

The movie shows the evolution of Shoeshine, a police dog with a bad sense of smell (how he got past training, I'll not venture to guess), from regular mutt to Underdog, crime-fighting extraordinaire, who can't seem to land properly (another silly running gag that worked better in the cartoons). The plot moves very quickly, considering the movie is only 82 minutes long. You see Underdog getting his powers and figuring out he's got powers. He eventually has a love interest. There's also a father-son relationship that needs to be mended, and though its handled simplistically, it doesn't seem out of place.

There's also some nice action bits that are fun, but that still feature a flying CGI-enhanced beagle. The setpieces are nicely matched to the rest of the movie, though you do see Patrick Warburton getting hit in the head and falling about. The movie also has the talents of Jim Belushi, Amy Adams, Jason Lee and Samantha Bee on display, though none of these are really being exploited to their full potential.

I suppose the movie is fine for kids, but parents will probably want something else. Fans of the older cartoons will probably want to avoid this one. It's not a horrible movie, but it does underestimate the intelligence of its audience, while not keeping the spirit of the cartoon as best as it could.

Video

2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen or 1.33:1 full screen. To my eyes, the picture looks stunning. Print defects aren't worth talking about and even digital artifacts aren't much seen. I didn't notice any noise, even considering a lot of the scenes take place at night and in darker areas. The shadow detail is also very nice. Colours are accurate and contrast is very nice. There's no real sheen of grain, making the picture look very clear, if a bit flat. The level of detail is also quite good. I was surprised by this picture, but considering the movie's running time, compression wouldn't be a problem.

Audio

The widescreen version has an English Dolby Digital 5.1 and a French Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track, while the fullscreen version has those two tracks, and adds a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track as well. The audio is as good as can be expected. There’s nothing spectacular, but it’s no slouch, either. Dialogue is always clear, except perhaps once or twice. The speaker separation and use of side and rear speakers is good enough, though during the quieter scenes the centre speaker is mostly used. The music and effects add nicely to the audio presentation.

English (HoH), French and Spanish subtitles are provided, for those who want them.

Extras

Starting off are a few Deleted Scenes. They don't really add too much, but they're nice to watch as cut scenes. They're not very long so their inclusion or exclusion in the movie doesn't really change things much. Director Frederik Du Chau has introductions for every scene, telling you why they’re not in the movie. The scenes are:

1. Lost Beagle (0:22 for introduction/0:28 for the scene) - an extra moment between Shoeshine and Jim Belushi.
2. School Hallway (0:31/1:13) - a redundant scene where Jack and Molly meet. This scene does explain how Jack knows things about Molly in a later scene, though.
3. First Bite Extended (0:17/0:57) - during the fight scene at the end. It's nothing big.

Some Bloopers (1:36) are next. This is rather short, but it’s okay and even has some funny bits from the dogs.

The "Sit. Stay. Act: Diary of a Dog Actor" featurette (5:52 for basic, about 15 minutes with branches) is next and this is a basic making-of with a few branches. This is not too much more than an EPK, with Underdog being the narrator, telling you what you're seeing. The branches have the cast/crew talk about Underdog (1:06), the dog training (1:30), the actors talking about working with the dogs (1:49), the voice acting in the movie (3:03) and the special effects (1:38). They just expand on the basic making of. Overall, it's an okay making-of, but a bit thin.

"Underdog Raps" Music Video Performed by Kyle Massey (2:40) follows, and Mr. Massey here does his best Black-Eyed Peas impression. The video looks a bit low-budget, with some cheesy CGI, but should be entertaining for some.

Next is the best extra of the DVD and the most entertaining part about the DVD. You have "Safe Waif" First Underdog Cartoon Episode (4:57). In its short 5-minute running time, this manages to be funnier and better than the entire movie. Underdog tries to get a small kid out of a bank safe. If you happen to have the DVD, you have to watch this.

Some Sneak Peeks finish the disc: 'Cinderella 2: Dreams Come True' (1:01), ‘Snow Buddies' (2:47), 'The Aristocats' (1:10), 'Phineas and Ferb' (0:32), 'Disney Movie Rewards' (0:32), 'Disney on Blu-ray' (0:50), '101 Dalmatians' (0:51), 'National Treasure: Book of Secrets' (2:33) and 'The Game Plan' (1:02) are here. The last five are also start-up trailers during Disney's FastPlay feature.

Overall

The Show: C Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: C- Overall: B-

 


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