Underdog Kids

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Underdog Kids Movie Poster Image
Predictable martial-arts tale has lots of action, flatulence
  • PG
  • 2015
  • 94 minutes

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Kids say

age 5+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Promotes confidence, hard work, and a positive outlook as means of reaching goals. Multiple explicit messages: "Be a problem solver, not a problem maker." "You have no choice about what you are -- black or brown, rich or poor. You have no choice about what people think of you. You only have a choice about what you think of yourself. No one can take that away." "Take a negative in life and turn it into a positive." "Follow the 3 R's -- respect for others, respect for yourself, and responsibility for your actions."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Martial-arts coach is forced to rethink his values (financial success and fame) and find fulfillment in reaching kids and helping others. A group of misfit and/or unhappy kids learn the importance of hard work, pride in one's abilities, teamwork. Multiethnic community members -- an Asian martial-arts expert, an African-American chef, and a Jewish community worker -- work together to provide "underdog kids" with a more enriching life. Beverly Hills opponents are stereotypical "rich kids" with a victory-at-all-costs coach.

Violence

Most of the fighting takes place in competitions; traditional martial-arts combat (falls, offensive and defensive maneuvers, holds). However, in two instances, impromptu fights are motivated by anger or bullying. Some bloody noses, bruising, and throw-downs. An overweight boy is bullied and attacked.

Sex

A kiss.

Language

Insults: "chicken butt," "shut up," "fatty." Swearing: "piss," "bulls--t." Farts get considerable screen time. A comic martial-arts move shows a painful groin kick.

Consumerism

Catapult Shoes, MMA (mixed martial arts), Yowza equipment.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Underdog Kids is another sports film in the "David vs. Goliath" tradition. In this tale a ragtag bunch of down-and-out kids takes on the winning Beverly Hills martial-arts junior champs with the help of a former MMA (mixed martial arts) heavyweight trying to make a comeback. Filled with straightforward messages about responsibility, confidence, and hard work, the film also has plenty of stereotypes (angry African-American boy, a kid trying to overcome a stutter, an overweight boy fat-shamed by his dad, a struggling single mom, adorable orphans, bullies). Lots of martial-arts action plays throughout with no serious injuries, and there's bullying and some street fighting in which the coach overwhelms an entire company of toughs. Expect some colorful insults ("chicken butt"), a few swear words ("bulls--t," "piss"), and numerous loud farts.

User Reviews

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Teen, 16 years old Written byDeannpohlig February 9, 2016

What's the story?

Jimmy "The Lightning Bolt" Lee (Philip Rhee, actual MMA champion, who also wrote and directed the film) is more than down on his luck in UNDERDOG KIDS. After a serious accident some years earlier, his career is ruined and he has no one in his life. Pressured by Charlie (Max Gail), an old friend who runs a struggling mid-city community center, to take on a group of impoverished or emotionally needy kids with an interest in martial arts, Jimmy is quick to say no. He doesn't even like kids. But Charlie is convincing. The varied-age troop is set to meet the area champions, the Beverly Hills Scorpions, led by one of Jimmy's long-standing martial-arts competitors, in a tournament only weeks away. Jimmy could make a big difference in these kids' lives. After a few fits and starts, he commits to the challenge, and the race for excellence begins in earnest.

Is it any good?

Underdog Kids is unoriginal. One-dimensional characters behave in conventional ways. The players are stereotypes throughout. Expect to see two orphaned boys building a relationship with their young and beautiful aunt; the fat tween being tormented by his father (Beau Bridges), who does the quickest turnaround in kid-movie history; the dad-coach who'll cheat, demean, and shame his way to victory; and the little girl with dreams, literally selling oranges on a street corner. Mr. Rhee clearly couldn't find experienced martial-arts kids to play his heroes (he fares better with the Beverly Hills opponents, who are much more capable), so he cast actors instead. Then he had the thankless job of trying to edit filmed battles with non-athletes. There's simply no way he can sell his kids' expertise, so it's a glaring cheat. Despite all that, kids may enjoy the movie, root hard for the underdogs, laugh at the "fartability" of one competitor, and pretend they don't notice how much better the Beverly Hills team really is.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about underdog movies as a genre. Many audience favorites are underdog films -- think Rocky, Hoosiers, and McFarland, U.S.A. In addition to being enjoyable, what do these movies teach us about ourselves and inspire us to do?

  • Define "predictable." In what ways is this film predictable? What, if anything, surprised you?

  • There's a place in the world of art (theater, books, movies) for "low comedy," such as farts, toilet humor, and pie-in-the-face slapstick. Why is it described as "low"? Why do you think farts make audiences laugh? 

Movie details

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