As the super-powered dog himself might say -
In today’s posting to this blog
I discuss the movie version of UNDERDOG!
As a reward for the labors I performed over the Labor Day week-end I treated myself to a private screening (no one else in the theatre for the 2:15 bargain matinee) of UNDERDOG, a live-action film based on the popular Saturday morning cartoon from the mid-1960s (starring the voice of Wally Cox as Underdog and narrated by George S Irving).
To begin I must say that I am a big fan of live-action films with talking animals. However, I am not a fan of movie adaptations of television shows, live or animated. It is the rare film (THE FUGITIVE) that is not either just bad (McHALE’S NAVY) or an insult to the original television version (I SPY). I generally avoid at all costs such movies. In this case the live-action talking animals won out over tv adaptations.
I was pleasantly surprised with this Disney film. It is, for the most part, aimed at a “tween” and younger audience, but also has a nostalgia appeal for boomers like myself. It actually satisfies both audiences (at least I assume it satisfies the young ones – I could not judge audience reaction as there was no audience other than me).
While the cartoon typically had animals playing human roles, the movie puts the action in the “real” world, with Underdog a “real” dog, the victim of a lab accident that gives him his Superman-like powers and allows him to speak “human”. The movie includes many references to the cartoon – Underdog’s “secret identity” is Shoeshine (because when first found he licks Jim Belushi’s shoes), his “love interest” is a purebred named Polly, whose owner is a reporter for the school newspaper, and the villains are humans Simon Barsinister, a mad scientist of small stature, and his idiot assistant Cad. There is an appearance by Riff Raff, a dog with the voice of Brad Garrett (of “Everyone Love’s Raymond” fame) who bullies Shoeshine. UNDERDOG even talks in rhyme when in costume.
The film, unlike many of the comedies made today, was free of any signs of bodily excretions, secretions or the passing of any gasses! If I may digress a bit, today’s so-called comedies seem to be a fascinated with discussions or representations of by-products of the digestive system! I was extremely disappointed to see in a “coming attractions” clip from the upcoming movie ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS, which I otherwise would have planned to see, a sight-gag with chipmunk excrement. It appears that ten-year old boys, and boys (including directors, writers and actors) whose chronological age is much older but their mental age is not, laugh at farts and the like. Frankly, it is not funny. There is no wit in shit!
Back to UNDERDOG, the bottom line is that is is light, nostalgic, harmless fun that I can recommend without reservations.
The film ended with the cartoon’s famous lines -
"Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's a frog...a frog?"
"Not bird, nor plane, nor even frog. It's just little 'ole me, Underdog!"