Disney // 2007 // 82 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // February 2nd, 2008
There's no need to fear. Underdog is here.
The classic cartoon character gets a modern-day reboot, with a wise-cracking CGI creation stepping in for the hand-drawn animated super-canine.
When a hapless police beagle (voiced by Jason Lee, My Name is Earl) washes out of the force because of his substandard sense of smell, a series of events lands him in the kennels of mad scientist Dr. Barsinister (Peter Dinklage, Elf) and his knuckle-headed henchman Cad (Patrick Warbuton, The Venture Brothers).
Barsinister is working on experimental genetic manipulation and, following another series of events, that police beagle from the first paragraph gets drenched in some crazy chemicals and thus Underdog is born. He ends up in the home of a retired police officer (Jim Belushi) and his introverted son Jack (Alex Neuberger), who clues into his new pet's superpowers.
With Jack's encouragement, Underdog commits himself to fighting crime and keeping the streets safe for pets and their owners alike but when Dr. Barsinister resurfaces to unleash a sinister plot that also happens to be nefarious and diabolical, Underdog will be forced to face his greatest threat.
Underdog isn't bad entertainment, it's just achingly generic. Not having much memory of watching the original cartoon the feature film is based on, I won't take the "loyalty to source material" route, though my rudimentary research does show that the filmmakers did make a flying, talking dog and a diminutive mad scientist so that might slightly appease the Underdog canon-devotees.
Or maybe the incessant mediocrity of the film is too much to bear for anyone, no matter how great an admirer they are of airborne canines.
I just recently watched Underdog and I'm having trouble recalling exactly what happened. It's that forgettable. Thankfully, I can always crack open the old Live Action Disney Movie Plot Book and run down the clichés and contrivances that can be found in the vast majority of these low-impact family movies with talking animals. There's the lovable quadruped protagonist, voiced with verve by Jason Lee and the surly, loner boy that befriends him and eventually comes out of his shell with enough confidence to ask out the hottest girl in the five boroughs and the frumpy adult protagonist who also bounces back from a low point in his life thanks to the magic of the talking dog and a pile of special effects and a pair of bumbling villains and enduring life lessons about staying true to yourself and doing the right thing no matter what the cost and poop jokes.
Yeah, that sounds about right. No complaints though, if this tedious familiarity was at least tempered with some witty writing, but the laugh-out-loud moments -- at least for me -- were not frequent. Actually, the only time I ever did laugh was at Warburtion's idiot henchman, but that's because he sounds a lot like David Puddy and that reminded me about Seinfeld and how funny that show was and I laughed. Again, kids might laugh at the non-stop dog puns and the sight of a flying dog hitting a mugger in the face with his butt, so you might just have to take one for the team, okay?
On Blu-ray, this dog looks and sounds great. The 2.35:1 picture is great from beginning to end, richly detailed and mighty clean, particularly during the big city action scenes. And despite the heavy use of CGI, Underdog himself looks really good, the boosted high-def clarity actually enhancing the visual effect instead of undercutting them. This is a significant upgrade over standard DVD. The uncompressed 5.1 audio is aggressive throughout. The "superhero" soundtrack is just as milquetoast as the rest of the film, but it's loud and Blu-ray's superior handling of the audio does it great benefit.
The extras are fairly lousy. There's a short, cheesy making-of featurette, some inconsequential deleted scenes, a blooper reel, a music video and a couple of original Underdog animated shorts.
The technical aspects are this disc's greatest features, but a blah feature and blah-er bonus material drag the title down. I still have no doubt the intended youngster audience will dig it.
I don't fear Underdog, but I'm not necessarily enthused that he's here.
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Master Lossless Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Music Video
* Bonus Cartoons
* Official Site