Patrick White

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I became a fair-weather fan of the St. Louis Rams and their quarterback, Kurt Warner. Warner was an incredibly gifted athlete, but he also seemed like a down-to-earth guy you couldn’t help but root for. His movie should have been the same way.

An equally down-to-earth guy, Zachary Levi, plays Warner opposite the dramatically talented Anna Paquin as Warner’s wife, Brenda. The problem with “American Underdog” is that it’s far too caught up in the romance between Kurt and Brenda Warner and not focused enough on how this overnight stocker became an NFL superstar. Unfortunately, Warner’s career in football feels like a footnote in the film.

This was especially clear in the finale. In the movie’s final scene, Warner plays in the 34th Super Bowl against the Tennessee Titans. It’s all been leading to this. But after only a few plays in the film, the game is over, and the editors have transitioned from the fictional versions of the people to footage of the real-life individuals. That is how I knew the movie was over.

Warner wins. The end. It was so anti-climactic. On further reflection, the real emotional climax of the film is the marriage of Kurt and Brenda, but the problem with that is that the movie wasn’t marketed as a love story, so this romance just feels hollow and distracting.

Making matters worse, I can’t believe Levi falling in love with Paquin in a bad wig. Paquin is beautiful and gives her all to this simple love story, but that wig is challenging her at every moment.

Levi also isn’t doing himself any favors. He’s an absolute charmer. He was great in “Shazam” and “Tangled,” but he’s just not a talented dramatic actor. His attempts to make us care about Warner’s plight are admirable, but it simply doesn’t work because I never see Levi as Warner. I see that funny guy from “Shazam.” I think he’s got the ability, but he needs a better director to help push him into the Oscar race.

The directors, Jon and Andrew Erwin, do what they can with the script, but the project is doomed from the beginning because the screenwriters focused on an aspect of Warner’s life many of us have no deep feelings about. Instead, I wish the film focused on this man as a beacon of hope for Midwesterners everywhere and his faith. I’m not usually a fan of films with a Christian message because they are often too cheesy for me, but this movie needed to lean into that more because it was shoe-horned in the final moments, and it felt awkward.

There is a good movie in Warner’s story, but this isn’t it. In “American Underdog,” good actors are wasted by a so-so screenplay, and the directors keep trying to make a compelling football movie but are trapped in the romance plot only the Warners’ closest friends and family care about. That said, it is refreshing to see a live-action film that the whole family can see together. We haven’t had one in some time. So I leave it up to you if you want to give this underdog a chance as I did years ago.

0
0
0
0
0