Taking the inspirational sports movie template, then infusing it with so much weed and foul language that it deserves its own MPAA rating, The Underdoggs is a good example of what happens when Snoop Dogg steps into an otherwise familiar tween-age comedy to wreak havoc. The results, perhaps suprisingly, are far from disastrous and ultimately quite endearing, though parents should be forewarned of a movie that drops more f- and b-bombs than all the ordnance released during World War II.
Inspired by the West coast rapper’s eponymous football league, which has provided a valuable community service to his native L.A. for nearly two decades, this fun and dirty Amazon release has the D-O-double-G playing himself alongside a bunch of adorable pre-teens who are just as snarky and crude. It’s something like the original Bad News Bears meets Rodney Dangerfield’s Ladybugs remixed by Dr. Dre, which could prove appealing to the under-17 set, provided they’re allowed to see it.
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Kudos go to writers Danny Segal and Isaac Schamis (#BlackAF), and director Charles Stone III (Uncle Drew), for giving so much free reign to four-letter words, while everything else in The Underdoggs — okay, maybe not the perpetual cloud of pot smoke that hangs in the air — seems more or less PG-friendly. At its core, the movie’s themes of redemption and overcoming adversity feel earnest, even heartfelt, so it’s just a question of whether one is willing to embrace its many colorful colloquialisms.
Snoop stars as Jaycen “2 Js” Jennings, a talented wide receiver from Long Beach, CA, who became a top NFL player before he started dropping passes, leading him to crash and burn the way celebrities often do. Bitter, stingy and dripped in so much bling and luxury clothing it’s as if Scrooge McDuck had jumped into a swimming pool filled with LVMH swag, Jaycen spends his days moping around his ginormous mansion while ranting and raving on a podcast that nobody bothers to listens to.
After wrecking one of his sportscars in a fairly hilarious accident early on, he’s sentenced to clean up a public park in his old hood. There he crosses paths with a young football squad in desperate need of a coach, not to mention new uniforms. “F–k LeBron James and f–k poor kids!” is Jaycen’s initial reaction when someone suggests he could help the team out. But after he realizes the gig could increase his social media standing and score him a gig on Fox Sports — not to mention reunite him with an old squeeze (Tika Sumpter) whose son is the quarterback — he decides to volunteer.
From then on, The Underdoggs goes very much the way you’d expect — the only difference being that if there were a bleep track, you would probably only hear around 30% of the dialogue. This applies to both Jaycen and his players, a well-cast, foul-mouthed assortment of gifted athletes and total scrubs that he shapes into a force to be reckoned with, splurging on pimped-out jerseys and giving them all memorable nicknames (the running back is called “Titties”).
It’s often quite funny to watch kids saying all the things they shouldn’t in a movie, or, for example, getting so drunk they collectively piss in a swimming pool, and much of the humor here is based on that precept. When it’s not the players it’s their coach, as in the scene where Jaycen delivers an inspired pre-game pep talk and tells his team to “whip on some bitch-ass, punk-ass bitches” — which, I guess, is Snoop Dogg’s interpretation of Knute Rockne’s famous “win one for the Gipper” speech.
And yet the nonstop raw banter doesn’t mean The Underdoggs lacks a heart. As Jaycen becomes genuinely invested in his player’s problems, whether its living in poverty or missing a father figure, the film’s sincere if simple message begins to be heard loud and clear — even if it arrives coated in several layers of expletives. For all his trash-talking, blunt-smoking onscreen antics, in the end Snoop comes across as a celebrity who actually gives a f–k.
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