THE UNDERDOGGS (2024)
Release Date: 01/26/24 [Prime Video]
Genre: Comedy. Sport.
Studio: MGM Studios.
"Jaycen "Two Js" Jennings is a washed-up ex-professional football star who has hit rock bottom. When Jaycen is sentenced to community service coaching an unruly pee-wee football team, he sees it as an opportunity to turn his life around."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
Inspired lightly by the true fact that Snoop Dogg has a youth football team he sponsors and mentors, The Underdoggs removes the fact he’s a rapper and instead replaces it with him being a hasbeen football “legend” that spoiled his own career with his ego. Forced to serve his time after reckless behavior doing community service, he (noticeably never checking with the judge who assigned him) switches from litter collecting to coaching a youth football team that’s down on their luck.
Director Charles Stone III is no stranger to the world of films that have mixed the concepts of comedy and sport, with prime examples being Mr. 3000 (2004) and Uncle Drew (2019). His films are never solid sports titles but more so adequate comedies with sports coincidentally happening around/to the characters. In The Underdoggs the comedy relies heavily on the comedic chops of a group of young actors and their delivery is primarily flawed.
Whenever, Snoop Dogg’s Jaycen and his “buddy” Kareem (Mike Epps) are ranting at the kids, it feels as if the pair are improvising every line and the editor decided to splice together each take. The forced romantic component is prevalently lacking depth, not conveying why Jaycen and his high school sweetheart Cherise (Tika Sumpter) parted ways or showing any chemistry between the two. Even the sociopathic talk show host, Chip Collins (Andrew Schulz), who shadows as a rival youth football coach, has an absence of purpose. While the character is clearly an arrogant person in all regards, the reasons behind his hatred toward Jaycen are never truly detailed.
The outlandish mixture of dumb and surreal comedy here missed the mark entirely, lacking a comedic powerhouse amongst the cast. The subject matter of an under-valued team making their way to the top is a predictable, but worthy journey to watch play out. Harkening back to the comedy of the younger actors, one of the larger punchlines in the film relies on the team sneakily (but not that quietly) getting drunk off beer left out. This scene fails to generate any sort of response beyond an eye roll at the attempt to make light of something so dangerous in reality. Not even the sports aspects of the film could save it from being a forgettable underdogg tale, loaded with aggravating comedy beats.
The Underdoggs had an uphill battle from the very jump with a confusing timeline in the form of Jaycen’s success story and his ultimate downfall. Snoop Dogg is sincerely “fine” in the role, but he never offers more than just that and therefore his supporting actors follow suit. The exemption being the team of child actors who go a little too far into their portrayals of exhaustive, crude kids out on the gridiron. If you enjoy an onslaught of middle fingers being thrown at the camera and kids repeatedly using the same curses to conjure a laugh, The Underdoggs humor might just be for you.