Underdog [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Disney
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (27th January 2008).
The Film

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 widescreen. The picture is generally very good and is a nice high-definition transfer in 1080p 24/fps. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the level of detail could be a bit better, but the transfer is very strong and poses no real problems. Shadow detail is a bit flat only because the contrast in darker areas could be a bit better. The colours are well-reproduced and are very strong. Everything is bright and natural, mostly. There are no print problems and no problems with the authoring. It's a very nice transfer.

Audio

An English PCM 5.1 (6.9 mbps), as well as three Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, in English, French and Spanish, are on this disc. When it has to get hefty, the track delivers. There's really nothing wrong with it, and it delivers a nice experience. The subwoofer gets used a bit, especially during the 'Underdog' theme song sequences. Imaging, when it happens, is pretty clean. Side and rear speakers are used at nice times, while the quieter moments are quiet, with some ambiance. Dialogue is clear and nothing interferes with it, meaning all the dialogue is clean is clear. The range is very nice, giving the track a better quality than anything else on this disc.

English (HoH), French and Spanish subtitles are here for you.

Extras

To make things easier, I've put an asterisk (*) on the extras exlusive to the Blu-ray release.

Starting off are a few Deleted Scenes (note that there are six scenes here, while the standard DVD only has three). 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. The best scene is the final extended scene. Director Frederik Du Chau provides an 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. Breakfast Extended* (0:10/1:24) - is a bit more discussion between father and son.
4. First Bite Extended (0:17/0:57) - during the fight scene at the end. It's nothing big.
5. Alternate Space Freeze* (0:11/0:35) - an alternate vision of what happens to Underdog in space. Whether in or out, this scene doesn't really make the movie any better or worse.
6. Final Battle Extended* (0:15/1:22) - a nice little touch that was cut out purely for pacing reasons, though even with this scene in, the movie would have been still about 83 minutes, and this includes the credits.

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 are the best extras of the disc and the most entertaining part about the Blu-ray. 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. There's also "Simon Says" Cartoon* (4:30). In this one, Simon tries to stop the world, by inventing a camera that will turn anything in its viewfinder into a real picture. I prefer the other cartoon, but this is pretty nice also. If you happen to have the Blu-ray with you, you have to watch these shorts.

Start-up trailers are inlcuded for:

- 'Disney on Blu-ray' (0:32)
- 'Sleeping Beauty' (1:43)
- 'National Treasure: Book of Secrets' (2:33)
- 'The Game Plan' (1:02)

Overall

Unset

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

 


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