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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Underdogs is a 2013 computer-animated film in which miniature foosball soccer players come to life to help a boy defeat an egomaniacal bully both on and off the soccer field. The movie's message -- that it's better to try your best and be a good sport no matter what happens than it is to win all the time by any means necessary -- comes through loud and clear. The bullying antagonist suffers the consequences of his win-at-all-costs attitude. There is some iffy humor throughout: jokes involving bird poop, nose-picking, and getting hit in the crotch, as well as references to someone being a "tool," how a stressful situation caused someone to "smell the load now," and the line, "Should we go to my place or yours?" The ugliness of the rats in the junkyard might be too nightmarish for younger or more sensitive viewers.
What's the story?
At the start of UNDERDOGS, when he learns that his son is losing interest in soccer because he never scores any goals, Jake (Matthew Morrison) goes into his son's room and tells him a bedtime story about when he was a boy, working in a café. In the café is a foosball soccer table with players who are unique characters -- among them angry British players, a hippie from Berkeley, and a vain Spanish player. He meets a cute girl named Laura, but just when they start to hit it off, an egomaniacal bully named Ace comes into the café and demands to play Jake at foosball. When Jake beats him -- Ace has never lost at anything -- nothing will do but for Ace to become the most dominant professional soccer player in the world. When that happens, many years after the foosball incident, Ace returns to town, buys the town, and begins to demolish it, including the beloved café and the foosball game with Jake's tiny friends. The players on the board come to life, and they will stop at nothing to help Jake stop Ace from destroying the town, stealing Laura, and defeating Jake and his ragtag group of local volunteers at a final soccer match to determine who the "winner" really is -- Jake or Ace.
Is it any good?
While it isn't a Pixar movie, this film does an entertaining take on the by-now familiar Pixar formula. Unlikely objects -- in this case, foosball players -- come to life and are voiced by known performers (in this case, John Leguizamo and Bobby Moynihan, among others) who provide comic relief by talking in exaggerated accents and dialects while a bigger message about not being a bully and being a good sport emerges. And like a Pixar movie, Underdogs has excellent animation, character voices that aren't cringe-worthy, and a ton of creativity.
While some of the iffy humor and cartoon pratfall violence make this a bit much for young kids, older kids and parents will find much to enjoy in the story, style, and humor. The sullen and silent teen character named "Emo" alone is worth repeated chuckles. Also, without spoiling anything, the movie's ending offers a creative twist on sports movie endings and does a nice job of tying in the movie's overall message.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Underdogs' overall message. What was the message? What were the ways in which it was communicated?
How was bullying shown in this movie? Were there consequences for the bully's behavior?
Was the end of the movie what you expected? How is it similar to and different from other sports-themed movies in which a game goes down to the wire?
- In theaters: August 27, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: July 19, 2016
- Cast: Rupert Grint, Peter Serafinowicz, Anthony Head
- Director: Juan José Campanella
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Integrity
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some rude humor and mild action
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