Friday, August 03, 2007

Underdog is here!

Judi and I saw Underdog today. I think this is probably the only time in my life that I've seen a movie on its opening day. I can sum up my opinion thusly:

I can't wait for the sequel.

Yes, it was that great!

For those of you who shudder at the admittedly somewhat campy television cartoon, the live-action movie is very different. There is a campy moment or two, which I think is called for, in tribute to where the movie came from, but aside from that what you have is almost an hour-and-a-half of edge-of-the-seat action mixed with hilarious humor. Plus a generous splash of stomach-turning special effects. This Underdog dude, he gets a lot of really great lines, including a dogs-eye view of human frailties and quirks that sometimes hits uncomfortably close to home.

There are also a couple of dark and disturbing moments, involving danger and harm to animals. I was surprised by this, given that the target audience is probably tweens, but the movie doesn't shy away.

It's not Great Art, but then, how many movies are? If you want to see a thoroughly entertaining action movie that doesn't include people being eviscerated or having their faces blown apart by shotguns or their bodies being dismembered in car crashes -- and really, who needs to see that in a movie theater when we can get sick seeing the real thing on CNN? -- if you just want to spend an hour-and-a-half seeing a thoroughly entertaining action movie (that just happens, by the way, to feature a beagle as a star) -- see this movie. It's great.

I mentioned the Underdog television series above. Again, if you're one of the ones who shudders at that old show, this movie works in the original characters and makes some nods (Underdog, in his secret identity, isn't a Shoeshine Boy, but instead his name is Shoeshine, and the movie explains how that comes to be), but honestly, I think the movie owes more to the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve (which is the only Superman movie I ever saw), than it does to the Underdog television show. When you watch the movie, you'll notice the parallels.

James Belushi (the only actor whose name I recognized) has a really sweet part that he plays awesomely. I thought there was a touch of cosmic irony in casting the actor Peter Dinklage as the evil Dr. Simon Barsinister -- and he is truly evil in the movie. Dinklage does a great job with the part. The irony is that Barsinister is carrying out inhumane experiments using animals... while the actor, Peter Dinklage, is in real life a vegetarian who is devoted to causes that promote the well-being and dignity of all animals.

It still doesn't stop him from being a truly evil Simon Barsinister. Well played, Mr. Dinklage. Well played.

Update! Some more stuff:

Underdog is a bi-color beagle, but you can't help but notice that his ears are darker than the rest of his markings. Judi thinks this is an homage to the cartoon.

And there's a cat that has a minor role in the movie. The cat's character is, well, not entirely flattering. So if you're a cat person, and specifically the kind of cat person who's upset by things like this, you might want to give this movie a pass.



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