Advertisement

James Swift: Swift @ The Movies: 'The Underdoggs' overdelivers

Feb. 9—Every now and then you'll hear a movie described as a "guilty pleasure."

Well, that's EXACTLY what our flick of the week, "The Underdoggs," is.

I wanted to hate this movie with every fiber of my being. It's crude and crass and raunchy and aims for the lowest hanging fruit at every opportunity. But it still made me laugh.

There's nothing original or inventive here. Indeed, we've seen this story play out countless times before, in movies running the gamut from "The Longest Yard" to "Little Giants."

So we've got Snoop Dogg — yes, the pioneering gangster rapper turned one-time murder trial defendant turned Grubhub spokesman — playing a disgraced ex-pro football player. He's pretty much a pastiche of all those prima donna wide receivers from the late '90s and early 2000s — Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, take your pick. Long out of action, he's reduced himself to hosting podcasts for a living. And since this IS Snoop Dogg, you know there's going to be copious references to a certain recreational activity still awaiting legalization in Georgia. Let's just say old Snoop has at least one thing in common with Willie Nelson, and it ain't Texas.

Well, one afternoon he gets into quite the traffic accident and in lieu of jail time, he's ordered to community service. And wouldn't you know it, the court makes him play head coach for a ragtag group of pee wee football players until his debts to society are fully paid.

Well, if the premise sounds familiar, it should. It's literally a ripoff of that old Disney movie "The Mighty Ducks," to the point the characters in this movie even remark on the similarities. Of course, "The Mighty Ducks" didn't have scenes where fifth-graders raid a beer cooler and barf in a swimming pool, but hey, times change.

I'm sure some folks will be rankled by all of the foul language and brusque euphemisms that populate the dialogue of "The Underdoggs," but at the end of the day, it's not any worse than the sorta' stuff you heard in "The Bad News Bears" about 50 years ago. And "The Underdoggs" even begins with a tongue-in-cheek warning from Snoop himself, letting audiences know the movie isn't intended for kids — even though the language you'd hear from actual kids at any youth football event would be just as bawdy, if not considerably more profane and obscene.

As for the rest of the cast, eh, they're pretty unremarkable. Mike Epps shows up as the main character's old high school buddy (naturally, they reconnect during a would-be carjacking) and ex-sitcom star George Lopez plays Snoop's old coach and mentor. There are a lot of cameos, though, including some split-second appearances from the likes of Michael Strahan and Deion Sanders. I guess some people can't turn down an opportunity to make a cheap buck — with the emphasis on the word "cheap."

Other aspects of the movie don't work at all, especially a forced and mechanical romance subplot with nary a smidge of passion or sincerity undergirding it whatsoever. Weirdly enough, Snoop's interaction with the kids on the team doesn't really translate into many guffaws either, even when he's making abstruse "Game of Thrones" references as a bond-building strategy.

You don't need me to tell you how this one ultimately plays out. Snoop's team of misfits and outcasts ultimately find themselves playing a rich, ritzy and well-mannered team in the finals of the city playoffs. I'm not going to spoil the outcome there, but if the intent was to imbue the movie with some inklings of heartfelt emotion — well, it doesn't work.

Still, I enjoyed "The Underdoggs" more than I thought I would. Not every joke lands, but enough of them do to keep you invested. It's hokey, predictable stuff — essentially, it's the most risqué movie Tyler Perry never made — but its basic ability to make you chuckle at the lowest possible common denominator deserves SOME aplomb.

Let's give this one a solid TWO AND A HALF PIECES OF POPCORN OUT OF FOUR rating. And if you're offended by the premise of the movie, just remember — the real-life Snoop Dogg has been coaching actual youth football teams for years now.