#REVIEW: “AMERICAN UNDERDOG”
Review by Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
American Underdog tells the true story of football quarterback Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi). It focuses on his constant setbacks before reaching NFL fame with the Rams. We are taken to his college football days, his stint with the Green Bay Packers and his impactful time with the Arena Football League’s Iowa Barnstormers. These moments come and go, but the constant and center of his life is his wife Brenda (Anna Paquin) and her children who become his.
Everyone loves a good underdog story in both life and cinema. American Underdog gives us both. It manages to bring a story that spans years without a dragging runtime. Screenwriters David Aaron Cohen, Jon Gunn and Jon Erwin focus on key essential moments from Warner’s life. Additionally, they give each moment the time it deserves. Warner’s quick two-day stint with the Packers passes in a blink of an eye. Meanwhile, time is taken on Kurt’s growth with the Barnstormers. This pacing helps move the story along while giving necessary information.
There isn’t a drastic physical change in Kurt from beginning to end. This may lead some audience members to question the underdog story. Yet, Kurt’s setbacks weren’t due to his abilities as a player but resided in his fear to take a chance and believe in himself. The Directors, Screenwriters and Levi work together to effectively show his emotional growth. Additionally, the football sequences are entertaining and Levi balances the emotional with the physical.
While this is a story of the rise of an NFL player, at the heart of it is its focus on Kurt and Brenda’s relationship. The best moments of the Film happen between Kurt, Brenda and the children. This is thanks to the strong chemistry between them. Paquin is great as Brenda, who stands her ground and supports Kurt the entire way. It’s in scenes with Paquin and the children, particularly Zack (Hayden Zaller) who help Kurt realize that he can beat the odds, and this is where Levi shows his range.
This is more than just a Football story. It’s one of love, ambition and unity even in the darkest of times. Although this is Kurt’s underdog story of making it to the NFL, both Brenda and he also are an underdog story of their own as well which we find ourselves rooting for too. These tender scenes of them communicating through hardship make an impact.
Mongrel Media release AMERICAN UNDERDOG on Christmas Day.
*Please exercise caution observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre*